The Diplodocus in Hintze Hall

Diplodocus : this is your life

The story of our Diplodocus cast goes back more than a hundred years.

Now, as plans are announced to send the Diplodocus on a UK tour, we take a look back at its long life as one of the best-loved exhibits in the history of the Museum.

A star cast

The Museum's Diplodocus skeleton cast, known affectionately as Dippy, has for many years been the first sight to greet Museum visitors.

When it was unveiled to the public in 1905, the Diplodocus became a star, and has since featured in newspaper cartoons, news reports and even played starring roles in film and television.

Cast from the type specimen found in America, the Diplodocus has moved location, changed posture and, earlier this year, the Museum announced that Dippy would be replaced by a blue whale skeleton.

Diplodocus was first described as a new type of dinosaur in 1878 by Professor Othniel C Marsh at Yale University. The species lived sometime between 156 and 145 million years ago and belongs to a group called sauropods, meaning 'lizard feet'.

'Most colossal animal on Earth'

When railroad workers unearthed the fossilised bones of a Diplodocus in Wyoming, USA in 1898, newspapers billed the discovery as the 'most colossal animal ever on Earth'.

Scottish-born millionaire businessman Andrew Carnegie heard the reports and set out to acquire the bones as a centrepiece for his new museum in Pittsburg.

During the reconstruction of the skeleton at the Carnegie Museum, experts discovered subtle differences from the two other Diplodocus species known at the time, Diplodocus longus and Diplodocus lacustris

The new species was named Diplodocus carnegii in honour of its owner.

By order of the King

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

dippy-body-image-2

The grand unveiling of the Diplodocus, in 1905

 

Dippy is one of 10 replicas of the original D. carnegii in museums around the world, including Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Moscow.

The 292-bone skeleton arrived in London in 36 packing cases and was unveiled to the public four months later in a lavish ceremony for 300 people, on Friday 12 May 1905.

Dippy was originally housed in the Reptile Gallery (now Human Biology), because it was too big for the Fossil Reptile Gallery (now Creepy Crawlies).

The Diplodocus in the Museum's Fossil Reptile Gallery (now Creepy Crawlies)

The Diplodocus in the Museum's Reptile Gallery (now Human Biology)

 

War and peace

During World War II the skeleton was disassembled and relocated to the basement to protect it from bomb damage.

And in 1979, the Diplodocus made the move to Hintze Hall, where it will remain until 2017.

Its appearance has changed over the years, reflecting advances in our understanding of dinosaur biology and evolution.

The dinosaur's head originally pointed downwards with the tail resting on the ground.

Following new research in the 1960s, the neck was raised to a horizontal position and in 1993, the tail was repositioned to curve spectacularly over visitors' heads.

The Diplodocus as it is today, in the Museum's Hintze Hall

The Diplodocus as it is today, in the Museum's Hintze Hall

Love Dippy?

Welcome this cuddly dinosaur into your home.

Browse the full range of Diplodocus toys and gifts in our online shop.  

The Dinosaur Season

The ultimate season of events for adults, counting down to Dippy's departure from Hintze Hall.

Diplodocus on tour

The Museum is delighted to invite museums and other venues to host Dippy on a tour of the UK starting in 2018.

The tour will mean more people than ever can see the iconic exhibit.

A programme of related events and educational activities will be developed and offered to venues and host cities.