For 112 years, Dippy has served as the museum’s kingpin exhibit, enchanting all who set eyes upon him. Perhaps unknown to many, this diplodocus skeleton is actually a replica of a 26-metre long sauropod dinosaur said to exist approximately 145 to 156 million years ago. The 292 bones are comprised of plaster cast. Dippy is one of 10 replicas on display across the world, others include Paris, Berlin and Vienna.
An astonishing specimen, Dippy arrived in the UK in 36 crates. The history behind this beloved dinosaur, however, is the most interesting part. Back in 1898, railroad workers in Wyoming, a prime fossil spot, unearthed the bones of the almost complete dinosaur. Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish billionaire, was so infatuated with the discovery that he accumulated the bones for his museum in Pittsburg. Scientists caught wind and saw that the finding was a brand new species, before terming it the Diplodocus carnegii. After mingling at Carnegie’s castle residence in Scotland, King Edward VII took a fancy to the impressive skeleton and requested a plaster cast replica to be shipped to the UK. And so, in 1905, Dippy’s story began.
Although irreplaceable, Dippy’s successor is already confirmed — a 4.5 tonne authentic blue whale female skeleton. The whale, which is yet to be named, died on a beach in Ireland in 1891 and will arrive with accompanying interactive exhibits. This particular species of whale, which is the largest mammal on earth, is endangered. It has danced with extinction and will serve as a prominent reminder of the importance of conservation efforts.
A bittersweet announcement, Dippy’s departure has a silver lining — a UK tour. Not just any old send-off, Dippy will retire with a bang, gracing the likes of Norwich Cathedral, a community centre in Rochdale, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery And Museum in Glasgow, to name but a few. The object, of course, is to make this iconic specimen available to all. The tour will commence in 2018 and last around three years.
First, Dippy needs to be flat-packed, after 4th January 2017, his last day on show. A monumental job, a six-person team of experts will dismantle London’s famous dinosaur over a three-and-a-half-week period. Extensive planning has been underway for quite some time, with a special coding system put in place to decipher the bones.
Although Dippy will never be forgotten, the arrival of the blue whale will serve an invaluable purpose of pioneering conservation awareness regarding a species that was almost hunted to extinction.
Those overcome with grief over Dippy’s departure will be elated to know that he shall reappear, this time in bronze, outside the museum.