Image: Cammy 'Robert' Roberts/The Boar

Dippy the Dinosaur roars into Coventry

‘Dippy the Dinosaur’ made a roaring first impression on the Coventry community as it was unveiled at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum on 20 February.

The plaster cast of the Diplodocus Carnegii had previously stayed in the iconic London Natural History Museum for over 100 years between 1905 and 2017. Having relocated, Dippy is now expected to make the West Midlands city its new home for the next 3 years.  

One of the stars of the famous London landmark, Dippy first arrived at the Natural History Museum by steamboat from the USA in 36 different crates and after 4 months of construction, it was finally completed in 1905. The demands of King Edward VII were what first led to the idea of bringing in a diplodocus to the museum and upon its unveiling on Friday 12 May 1905, it was the first full skeleton of a sauropod dinosaur ever displayed anywhere in the world. 

‘Dippy’ was first displayed in the reptile gallery of the London Museum where it stayed until the 1930s. During the war, the dinosaur had to be moved to the basement to protect it from the bombings of the blitz. On top of the threat of bombs, the museum had to keep spare tail bones as visitors would often take them home as souvenirs. 

First taking its place in the iconic Hintze Hall in 1979, Dippy was originally joined by a triceratops at the entrance of the museum. This wouldn’t be for long, however, as in 1993 the triceratops would be removed and there would be extensive work done to Dippy’s tail in order to make it more in line with new scientific discoveries. The tail would now hover in the air above visitors instead of dragging along the ground. 

Dippy is the UK’s most popular dinosaur so to have something so huge, so iconic, coming to Herbert Art Gallery & Museum is just fantastic

Paul Breed, CEO of Culture Coventry

After 112 years at the museum, the skeleton which had since been dubbed ‘the most famous dinosaur in the world’ was to move to the Midlands. Since leaving the museum in 2017, the dinosaur has been all around the country, seeing the sights of Cardiff, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Norwich. Following the iconic dino’s visit, many cities have experienced what has since been coined ‘The Dippy effect’, reflecting increased tourism in places that have housed the statue. It is thought that more than 2 million visitors have visited Dippy throughout its tour of the UK. 

In 2022, it was announced that the museum would be looking at a longer-term location for Dippy to stay and after the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum went through extensive renovations, it was decided that it would be the perfect location for Dippy for the next few years. The dinosaur will be available to be seen in a free-to-visit exhibition called ‘Dippy in Coventry: The Nation’s Favourite Dinosaur’. 

“Dippy is the UK’s most popular dinosaur so to have something so huge, so iconic, coming to Herbert Art Gallery & Museum is just fantastic,” said Paul Breed, CEO of Culture Coventry. 

After a representative from Coventry Young Ambassadors put in Dippy’s final bone on February 20, The Boar spoke to some of those involved with organising this massive relocation project. 

“We’re really excited to be hosting Dippy,” one member of CV Life said: “It doesn’t get bigger than a dinosaur! I’m hoping people from around the region, adults and kids, everyone of all ages can come and visit the city bringing tourism for the next three years”.  

When asked about some of the logistical challenges of moving the beast, the CV Life representative highlighted that: “A fantastic team from the Natural History Museum came and they have put [Dippy] together multiple times from when Dippy toured the UK from 2017-2021. Initially, I was worried it was going to come in individual bones but thankfully it came in sections.  

“The bones along the bottom of the tail are where Diplodocus get their name from as it comes from the Greek ‘double-beam’, as they have an unusual set of bones underneath their tail bone and they were tied together at the last minute. I was really fascinated to watch how ‘Dippy’ went together,” the representative added. 

We couldn’t be happier that The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum will be the host of that loan for the next three years and we can’t wait to see the Dippy effect in action again

Dr Doug Gurr, a director at the Natural History Museum

In terms of what the future could hold for the Herbert Gallery following this large attraction, the CV Life spokesperson commented: “I think this is going to send us [The Herbert Gallery] on a path to do more natural science and we’re looking at that in lots of different ways. 

“This could include contemporary photography about the natural world. We’re also really interested in conservation and, obviously, there were several really big extinction events for the dinosaurs finishing at the crustaceous period, so we’ll be exploring a lot about the environment too”. 

Alongside this, organisers highlighted some of the other events the Museum is considering: “We’re planning to do some evening events that will be aimed at the grown-ups and maybe doing a board game or role-playing evening, I’m very much looking forward to those.”  

Dr Doug Gurr, a director at the Natural History Museum, added: “One of our top priorities at the Natural History Museum is making sure the treasures of our collection are able to be enjoyed by as many people as possible whilst benefitting and inspiring communities across the UK. We couldn’t be happier that The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum will be the host of that loan for the next three years and we can’t wait to see the Dippy effect in action again.” 

Placing the final bone into Dippy to complete construction, 10-year-old Daisy-Marie Taylor spoke of her pride in helping complete the huge construction. She said: “It was amazing to be able to put the final bone into place. It is something I will never forget.”  

Other children from the Coventry Young Ambassadors, which Taylor was a part of, added: “It does look much bigger than 26 meters especially because the tail is [so] long”.  Other students commented that they liked how the tail “curves up” with one adding that they would be very excited to come and see Dippy again.  

Free tickets to see ‘Dippy in Coventry: The Nation’s Favourite Dinosaur’ are going quickly. Consequently, the Herbert Gallery extended its opening hours during the February half term to 6pm on February 21, 22, 24, and 25. Further, the Museum remained open until 9pm on February 23 in order to allow even more people to see the prehistoric icon. 

We reached out to Dippy himself for comment but unfortunately received none as he is extinct. 

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