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How to dismantle a whale

The National Museum of Ireland has been preparing the Natural History Museum for major roof works by the Office of Public Works (OPW). We started in 2020 and have moved over 20,000 objects, but the most significant to be tackled were the skeletons of two whales, that were suspended from structures in the attic space. Follow the project on Facebook or Twitter with #DeadZooDiary
The first step was to close the upper floors and then move large exhibits including the walrus, rhinos and elephant skeleton with the help of William Tracey & Sons. The Building Maintenance Services (BMS) carpentry team from the OPW boxed in the very largest exhibits and display cases for protection. A timber platform over the hippopotamus was built to take the weight of people working on the 11m long humpback whale skeleton, which was hanging on chains running through the larger fin whale skeleton above.

In August 2020 the humpback whale skeleton was dismantled by a team from Inside Out Animals in the Netherlands. The bones were wrapped and shipped to the National Museum of Ireland Collections Resource Centre by a team from Maurice Ward Art Handling. The space freed up below the fin whale by the removal of the humpback whale allowed a substantial scaffolding platform to be built, which was needed to support the weight of people, lifting equipment and whale bones when the fine whale was dismantled.

In December 2022 the Inside Out Animals team returned to work on the fin whale. They used scaffold gantries to secure the specimen and mobile scaffold towers to access the huge skeleton. The whale came apart piece by piece, starting from the tail and ending with the 4.5m long, 1 tonne skull. Much of the fin whale skeleton had been remodelled in timber and plaster, which was unexpected, so we learned a lot about the specimen.

For a detailed explanation of the history of the whale specimens in the Museum and how we safely took them down, take a look at our Tales from the Decant talk - How to Dismantle a Whale?

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Natural History

Natural History,
Merrion Street,
Dublin 2,
D02 F627

+353 1 677 7444