Dippy will be deeply missed
THE day finally came, Dippy the Dinosaur has waved goodbye to the Natural History Museum and January 5 marked the first day of the tricky dismantling process.
Dippy the Diplodocus has spent the past 112 years in The Natural History Museum, and welcomed visitors into his home from the entrance hall since 1979.
If you have ever visited the museum in Kensington, you will not have been able to escape his grandeur. Standing at an impressive 21.3 metres long, 4.25 metres high, and 4.3 metres wide, he was a favourite of many visitors to the museum.
The fossilised bones of a Diplodocus were unearthed in America in 1898, a replica was then built out of plaster, creating Dippy.
He is one of 10 replicas in the world including in Paris and Moscow.
Dippy is a Diplodocus, a species which lived around 150 million years ago and belongs to a group called sauropods, which means “lizard feet”.
However, Dippy has now left Hintze Hall to prepare for for his tour across the country.
“We wanted Dippy to visit unusual locations so he can draw in people who may not traditionally visit a museum,” said museum director, sir Michael Dixon.
“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.”
He added that the project is all about “encouraging children from across the country to develop a passion for science and nature.”
On his 2018 tour, the plaster cast model, which is made up of 292 bones, will visit eight venues across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and locations across England.
The process to prepare Dippy for his tour started many years ago, and takes place after hours, when the doors of the museum were closed to the public.
Twice a year for the past 112 years, Dippy has been polished to perfection to ensure that he is always looking in tip-top condition for visitors.
A special vacuum is used to remove the dust and Dippy is then polished with conservation-grade brushes with natural fibres.
Exhibition specialist, Helen Walker, said: “We usually clean the skeleton in the evening because it is a long job that can’t be rushed.
“It needs a good clean twice a year because a layer of dust forms from the sheer number of visitors that Dippy gets. He gets covered in it.
“’We used to use a scaffold, but now we use ladders and mobile platforms to reach the higher parts. Long brushes help us to get in between all the fiddly bits.
“The tail is particularly hard to clean because it stretches out so far, and vibrations can run all along it and expose cracks.”
Further preparation was carried out to ensure a safe dismantling process for the 70ft model.
Conservator, Lorraine Cornish inspected the giant in 2016. She said: “A conservation assessment of Dippy and its mount was needed so we can assess the condition of the skeleton cast and also look more closely at how it was originally assembled in Hintze Hall.
“It was exciting and interesting to see that parts of the plaster vertebrae had been produced in sections and were able to come apart easily, which will help when we come to dismantle the specimen.”
A six person team will now embark upon the dismantling process which is expected to take around three weeks.
The replica model will be taken apart and the museum said Dippy will be packed into 12 separate crates, enabling him to be transported to the different venues across the UK, beginning at the Dorset County Museum from February 2018.
Kat Nilsson, who is head of national public programmes at the museum, said: “We are going to turn him, essentially, into flatpack Dippy so that he can be put together – probably in four days by the end of it, maybe even less.”
Hintze Hall will now be closed to the public until the summer of 2017, when the Natural History Museum will unveil the real skeleton of an 83ft blue whale, weighing 4.5 tonnes.
The skeleton is 100-years-old and will take pride of place in the entrance hall.
Sir Michael said: “The natural world is changing fast and so are we.
“It’s in our grasp to shape a sustainable future – but our decisions have to be informed by understanding our past and present.
“The blue whale is a perfect symbol of this story of hope.”