Baleen at the Ball

Once in a Whale

The whales suspended for all to see The whale aisle once more open to the public

It is with much happiness (and a lot of satisfaction) we can announce that the ‘Once in a Whale’ project has been shortlisted for a Museums and Heritage Award for Excellence 2014, in the ‘Restoration or Conservation’ category. The glitzy ceremony is to be held at 8 Northumberland Avenue in London on May 14th 2014. We will be competing with some other amazing projects, including the Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Outreach Programme and the Mary Rose Trust. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity and feel that even to be shortlisted is a huge accomplishment for our little project. With thanks to the Museums and Heritage show, details of which can be found here:

Project Conservators: Nicola Crompton, Gemma Aboe and Bethany Palumbo Project Conservators: Nicola Crompton, Gemma Aboe and Bethany Palumbo

We’d also like to thank the Arts Council England for the Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material…

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Last summer Robert Rapoport, film maker and DPhil student at the Ruskin School of Art, recorded some footage of the whale conservation project that took place in the Museum during the closure. Here’s Robert’s finished film for your enjoyment. The film is also showing next to the Welcome Desk at the front of the Museum, so check it out if you’re visiting.

And if you haven’t seen it already, you can read all about the whale conservation project on the Once in a Whale blog.

Making a splash

NIKON D700 - 0063
Credit: Mike Peckett

We have a new blog in the Museum of Natural History family! Once in Whale is an exciting new site all about our whale skeleton conservation project. Visitors to the Museum will remember being greeted by an enormous jaw bone, which belonged to a sperm whale. Exploring further you would have seen spectacular skeletons suspended from the roof.

Bethany Palumbo
Bethany with the sperm whale jaw

After over 100 years on display, the whales are unsurprisingly looking a little worse for wear. Dust, decay and water that dripped through the roof have all taken their toll. It’s time for a bit of TLC and the Museum’s year of closure has provided the ideal opportunity.

So, who is behind this conservation project? The team is headed by Bethany Palumbo, Conservator of Life Sciences at the Museum of Natural History. Donning her hard hat to work alongside Bethany is Gemma Aboe, recently appointed as Assistant Conservator.

Gemma Aboe
Gemma Aboe



So far, there are just 2 posts up on the Once in a Whale blog, but already I’ve learned a huge amount about whales and their conservation. For example, did you know that the Lesser Fin Whale is the second longest animal in the world?! Each post by the ‘whale team’ will tell you about the different whale specimens involved and the conservation treatments they’ll be experiencing. Keep following for progress updates and to see the big reveal of the finished sparkling skeletons.

Rachel Parle, Education Officer