The Dippy Countdown is officially on, with just over a week to go until the famous dinosaur starts its nationwide tour at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.
Dippy on Tour is brought to you by the Natural History Museum in partnership with the Garfield Weston Foundation, and supported by DELL EMC and Williams and Hill.
Dippy will meet his adoring public for the first time on Saturday 10 February. Those first lucky visitors will be among an estimated 70,000 people who are set to pass through the grand old doors of the museum. It’s a monster task and obviously the folk at the museum and Jurassic Coast Trust can’t do it all by themselves. So, following an appeal some 200 of us signed up to be Dippy volunteers, doing everything from stewarding to doing the dishes. The 6,000 school children who visit will need help too!
I’m a volunteer steward and will be lending a hand with the school visits. So I figured I better do a bit of swotting up about the famous old creature which used to stand guard in the entry hall of the National History Museum.
I thought that I knew quite a lot after growing up fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast and taking my kids to see Dippy in London before he left to go on tour. Oh boy – was I wrong! The museum organisers did tell us about Dippy at a volunteer event, but I must confess to spending most of the time wondering how on earth they were going to fit it in building rather than paying attention!
(SPOILER ALERT – don’t read on if you want to discover more about Dippy yourself – and there will be loads of displays around the museum to look at when you visit.)
So here’s some stuff I found out…
- Dippy is not actually a fossil or skeleton – Dippy is a plaster of Paris and resin replica painted black – cast primarily from a real fossilised skeleton discovered in Wyoming in the USA in 1898.
- Dippy was a monster reality star back in the day – Famous Scottish- American steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie snapped up the skeleton for his new Pittsburgh Museum where it caused a massive sensation. Obviously this was before much was known about fossils and dinosaurs. And certainly before the internet was invented, David Attenborough starred on the television or CGI created incredible creatures in movies like Jurassic Park! Scientists later declared the discovery to be a new species, named it Diplodocus carnegii in Carnegie’s honour, and it became generally known as ‘Dippy’.
Dippy was created by royal appointment – In 1902 King Edward VII popped into Carnegie’s Scottish castle, as you do. HRH was suitably blown away enough by images of Dippy in Carnegie’s study to want one for London’s Natural History Museum. A cast was duly made and our Dippy made his UK debut in 1905.
There is another Dippy – 10 in fact! Carnegie was a famous philanthropist of the time and spent much of his fortune on good deeds such as building libraries and museums. So his crew knocked out replicas so people around the world could be inspired by the giant skeleton. London’s Dippy has siblings in museums from Paris to Berlin and Buenos Aires in Argentina to St Petersburg in Russia.
- No one really knows if Dippy is a boy or a girl – Apparently it’s really difficult to tell if dinosaurs are male or female. Your best chance is if there’s an egg discovered among any fossilised remains. For the purposes of his tour, Dippy is being referred to as a “he”.
- Dippy is worth a serious amount of money – Well it is over 100 years old, so technically an antique. It would be great to get a real valuation on the Antiques Road Show, but apparently Dippy is insured for around £1 million.
- There’s loads more to discover about Dippy’s story at the Jurassic Coast Trust’s Dippy page
And if you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, you can also find more of my blogs about life on my Jurassic Coast blog and Our Story. Thanks for reading, next time I’ll be able to tell you about when I came face to face with Dippy himself, and will hopefully be able to post a ‘Dippy Selfie’!
John, OceanRocks – proud to be a Jurassic Coast Business Partner