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'Dippy' the Diplodocus set to roam earth again as it heads to Ulster Museum

By Sophie Inge

Published 15/11/2016

‘Dippy’ the Diplodocus is coming to the Ulster Museum in 2018.
‘Dippy’ the Diplodocus is coming to the Ulster Museum in 2018.
The 26-metre Diplodocus skeleton is a museum icon and has been on display for more than 100 years.

An iconic dinosaur is set to take up residence in Belfast as it ventures out of London for the first time in over a century.

'Dippy' the Diplodocus - one of 10 replicas cast from the original Diplodocus carnegii - has been a permanent fixture at the Natural History Museum since 1905.

But from September 2018, visitors to the Ulster Museum will be able to observe the gigantic skeleton as it travels the length and breadth of the UK.

In total, Dippy will visit eight venues between early 2018 and late 2020, after a total of 90 venues responded to the open-call for potential partners in 2015.

In its displayed pose, the full 292-bone skeleton is an impressive 21.3 metres long, 4.3 metres wide and 4.25 metres high.

Kathryn Thomson, chief executive of National Museums Northern Ireland, said: "We're thrilled that Dippy will be coming to the Ulster Museum in Belfast, where he can be assured of a very warm Northern Irish welcome.

"It will give us a fantastic platform to uncover and connect to stories from our own extensive Natural Sciences collection. We look forward to creating an exciting programme of events for 'Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure' that will appeal to all ages and inspire our visitors to engage more with the natural world in our area."

Sir Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum said: "We wanted Dippy to visit a variety of locations so he can draw in people that may not traditionally visit a museum.

"Making iconic items accessible to as many people as possible is at the heart of what museums give to the nation, so we have ensured that Dippy will still be free to view at all tour venues.

"Working with our eight partners we look forward to inspiring five million natural history adventures and encouraging children from across the country to develop a passion for science and nature.

"Few museum objects are better known - surely no one object better evokes the awesome diversity of species that have lived on Earth?"

Since his unveiling at the Natural History Museum in 1905, Dippy has become a star - featuring in newspaper cartoons, news reports and even playing starring roles in film and television.

First described as a new type of dinosaur in 1878 by Professor Othniel C Marsh of Yale University, the Diplodocus lived some time between 156 and 145 million years ago and belongs to a group called sauropods - meaning 'lizard feet'.

The Diplodocus carnegii was first unearthed by railroad workers in Wyoming in the USA in 1898, with its discovery billed as the 'most colossal animal ever on Earth'.

The bones were acquired by Scottish-born millionaire businessman Andrew Carnegie who made the dinosaur a centrepiece for his museum in Pittsburgh.

When it was reconstructed, experts discovered subtle differences from the two other Diplodocus species known as Diplodocus longus and Diplodocus lacustris and the new species was named Diplodocus carnegii after its owner.

King Edward VII saw a sketch of the dinosaur while visiting Carnegie at his Scottish castle and remarked how much he would like a similar specimen for the animal galleries of the Natural History Museum. Carnegie obliged by commissioning a replica cast of his dinosaur.

The skeleton arrived in London in 36 packing cases and was unveiled to the public four months later in a lavish ceremony on May 12, 1905.

During the Second World War the skeleton was disassembled and relocated to the basement to protect it from bomb damage. In 1979, the Diplodocus moved to the Hintze Hall at the museum, where it has been on display ever since.

Over the years, the dinosaur's appearance has changed, reflecting advances in our understanding of dinosaur biology and evolution. The dinosaur's head originally pointed downwards with the tail resting on the ground. But following research in the 1960s, the neck was raised to a horizontal position and in 1993, the tail was repositioned to curve over visitors' heads.

Dippy will be at the Ulster Museum between September 17, 2018, until January 6 2019.

The dinosaur will also visit five regions across England as well as Scotland and Wales and will be on show at: Dorset County Museum, Birmingham Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Glasgow, Great North Museum Newcastle, National Assembly for Wales, Number One Riverside Rochdale and Norwich Cathedral.

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