Dippy the Diplodocus to become Jurassic jigsaw as blue whale takes centre stage
Natural History Museum visitors have just hours left to enjoy Dippy the Diplodocus before work to dismantle the exhibit begins.
The 70ft (21.3m) plaster-cast sauropod replica made up of 292 bones has stood in Hintze Hall since 1979, but he will bid farewell to the public from Wednesday evening when the hall closes.
A team of six will start the three-and-a-half week task of taking apart Dippy, piece by piece, beginning with the tail from January 5.
Once he has been cleaned and repaired where necessary, Dippy is expected to fit into 12 crates and in anticipation of his two-year UK tour, the museum said he will be "flat packed" allowing him to be put together in around four days at each new destination.
The tour will start in early 2018 and venues will include the Dorset County Museum, which has a gallery dedicated to Britain's fossil-rich Jurassic Coast.
He will also travel to Birmingham Museum, Ulster Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Great North Museum in Newcastle, the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff, Number One Riverside in Rochdale, and Norwich Cathedral.
Dippy's coveted spot at the entrance to the museum is being taken by the real skeleton of an 83ft (25.2m) female blue whale, weighing 4.5 tonnes.
The whale first went on display at the museum in 1938 when the mammals hall opened and has been suspended over a 94ft (28.6m) life size model since.
She ended up as part of the collection after beaching herself in March 1891 at the mouth of Wexford Harbour, Ireland, and had already been injured by a whaler.
The sea mammal will take up position in a diving pose as she is suspended from the ceiling of the newly renovated hall on 0.6in (15mm) wire strands.
More than 10 new exhibits and more than 650 specimens will be placed alongside the whale with a big reveal expected in the summer.
The museum have said the main themes around them all will be origins and evolution, biodiversity and sustainability.