Dippy sticks its neck out for monster museum tour
Venues around the UK are competing for a monster attraction - Dippy the diplodocus.
First round applications for the chance to take part in a nationwide tour by the celebrated dinosaur have been opened by the Natural History Museum.
The Jurassic legend, ousted from its star spot at the London museum by a blue whale, will visit a selection of venues around the UK from early 2018.
Successful applicants will have to provide an indoor space big enough to accommodate a 70-foot dinosaur and his multitude of fans.
As Dippy underwent an inspection at the museum, director Sir Michael Dixon said: "Dippy needs to be handled carefully: it has taken our conservators several months to be sure that, with care and the right systems in place, it would be possible to tour.
"We are committed to making iconic items in the national collections more accessible, working with partners around the UK to so that museums around the country can all benefit.
"However, we have never sent anything as big as Dippy beyond the museum. We already know the costs of touring a diplodocus will be substantial, depending on where the tour visits and how many places it goes.
"Over the months ahead we will be looking for partners to help us realise our vision of as many people in the UK seeing Dippy as possible."
Dippy, a cast replica of a near-complete diplodocus skeleton unearthed in the United States in 1898, won a special place in the hearts of generations of young Natural History Museum visitors.
Between 1979 and January this year, he was a towering presence in the centre of the museum's enormous Hintze Hall.
The decision to replace him with a "diving" blue whale skeleton from 2017 sparked a Twitter storm, with supporters voicing their outrage under the hashtag #SaveDippy.
Sir Michael insists the change is "important and necessary", and in keeping with the museum's goal to challenge the way people think about the natural world.
As he tours the country, Dippy will have to be taken apart and re-built at each venue - no mean task, since he is made up of 292 bone casts including 70 tail vertebrae.
In its displayed pose the full skeleton measures 21.3 metres (69.8 feet) long, 4.3 metres (14 feet) wide and 4.25 metres (13.9 feet) high.