Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, until 6 May 2019.
The skeleton of Diplodocus carnegii, more fondly known as Dippy, has been an iconic part of the Natural History Museum in London for over 100 years. For the last year, however, Dippy has set off on his UK tour, travelling from Birmingham to Ulster, and now has arrived with a roar at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Dippy lived between 156 and 145 million years ago and his body is thought to have weighed around 15 tonnes, the same as ten cars. He has a whip-like tail, thought to scare away predators, and pencil-like teeth to strip leaves from giant ferns.His bones were discovered in 1898 by Scottish-born Andrew Carniegie, in Wyoming, USA. At the request of King Edward VII, a replica of the 292-boned skeleton was made and arrived in London in 1905. Diplodocus carnegii was the first full skeleton of a sauropod dinosaur ever displayed in the world, and is currently one of the longest known dinosaurs from a complete skeleton. It is understandable, then, that Dippy became an instant hit with the public and the media: he was called ‘the greatest animal that ever lived’ and even became the subject of the 1975 Disney film, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing. In World War II, he was dismantled and moved to the basement of the museum for protection during the Blitz. Since his arrival in the museum, his appearance has been altered a couple of times in accordance with new research; his head has been raised to a horizontal position and his tail moved to curve above visitors’ heads, rather than dragging along the ground.
By going on tour, Dippy gets his own line of merchandise and the chance to make new friends, such as Big Mike, the replica T. rex in Newcastle. But it is also hoped that he will inspire the next generation of scientists all over the country, and to help further engage them with their local natural history. Pictures such as one of a young boy, caught in a magical moment looking down at the skeleton from the balcony, remind us of the awesome power of Dippy: who knows how many children will be now inspired to pursue an interest in palaeontology, or the natural world as a whole, simply from seeing him in their city. His journey outside London calls into question the accessibility of science as, without this tour, it would have only been possible to see the iconic skeleton by travelling down to London, something which is unfeasible for many. His tour is the first time he has been displayed outside of the capital and so this is a completely unprecedented journey and should be celebrated as the once in a lifetime opportunity it is.
If you can, do get a chance to visit Dippy before he stomps down to Newcastle, as it truly is a wonderful sight to see him fill the main hall of the gallery. Plus, you can always pick up a tour shirt as a memory of his time, both in life and in Kelvingrove.
[Eleanor Fletcher – @eleanorlf_]