IIC is pleased to announce that the 2016 IIC Keck Award is awarded to the Natural History Museum, London, UK, for their ‘Blue Whale Project’. The Award itself was presented at the 2016 Los Angeles Congress.
In September 2015, the Natural History Museum’s conservation team began the work of checking, cleaning and dismantling a 25 metre long, 4.5 tonne blue whale skeleton. The specimen had been on public display in the Mammals Hall of the Museum since 1934, and will be re-suspended from the ceiling of the Museum’s main Hintze Hall from the summer of 2017. The whale will take the place of the Diplodocus cast that has stood in the Museum’s main entrance for 35 years.
The Blue Whale Project was an opportunity to promote the Museum’s conservation work. There had already been a large amount of media coverage about the move, and the team have embraced the project’s engagement potential through many channels. This includes paper presentations, installation of a “pop-up” Conservation studio, lectures and informal chats with the public, the use of social media and the museum’s film production team as well as international media team producing a documentary. Due to the size of the skeleton the conservation team worked across three sites, including the newly installed pop-up conservation studio in the Museum’s Darwin Centre. Visitors are able to watch the conservation work on the individual bones and talk to the team directly about their work. Further signage outside and within the pop-up studio promotes the background story of the blue whale and the conservation work.
The conservation story of the Blue Whale is also being documented in a series of films by the Museum’s broadcasting unit. These films can be found on the Museum website as well as through the Museum’s YouTube channel. An international media team are also following the team throughout the two-year project from dismantling to installation.
This project has provided the conservators with a unique opportunity to engage with the public in new and exciting ways. The team working on the project have a strong commitment to promoting and sharing the importance and relevance of conservation more widely and will continue to do so on other projects in the future. It has provided an opportunity to share the ethical and practical issues that every conservator has to face when completing a project and is helping to give the public a new in-depth insight into the world of conservation.