Natural History Museum to take down "irrelevant" diplodocus skeleton

Natural History Museum's Dippy the Diplodocus set to retire because he's 'not relevant' anymore

Natural History Museum's famous dinosaur skeleton, nicknamed Dippy the Diplodocus, is being retired - because he is no longer deemed "relevant".

The plaster dinosaur skeleton, which has inspired generations of schoolchildren at the London museum for 109 years, is being taken down from summer 2017. He he will be replaced by the 83 foot long (25.2 metres) real skeleton of a blue whale, suspended and "diving" from the ceiling of the Hintze Hall.

The whale, previously the centrepiece of the Mammal Hall, is said to serve as a potent symbol of both environmental destruction and hope for the future.

Meanwhile, there are plans to preserve Dippy at least for a while, possibly by sending him on a tour of the UK.

Despite his realistic appearance, Dippy is a fake - an exact plaster cast copy of an 85 foot long (26 metres) diplodocus, a giant four-legged sauropod dinosaur that lived in North America 150 million years ago.

Originally installed in the Reptile Gallery in 1905, he was taken apart and stored in the Natural History Museum's basement to avoid damage during the Blitz.

In 1979, he was rebuilt and given pride of place in the central hall.

For the last 35 years, Dippy has greeted visitors filing through the museum's main entrance.

The change is part of a "decade of transformation" planned at the museum by its director, Sir Michael Dixon.

Explaining the decision, Sir Michael said: "As the largest known animal to have ever lived on Earth, the story of the blue whale reminds us of the scale of our responsibility to the planet.

"This makes it the perfect choice of specimen to welcome and capture the imagination of our visitors, as well as marking a major transformation of the Museum.

"This is an important and necessary change.

"As guardians of one of the world's greatest scientific resources, our purpose is to challenge the way people think about the natural world, and that goal has never been more urgent.

"The very resources on which modern society relies are under threat.

"Species and ecosystems are being destroyed faster than we can describe them or even understand their significance.

"The blue whale serves as a poignant reminder that while abundance is no guarantee of survival, through our choices, we can make a real difference.

"There is hope."

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The female blue whale has been a resident at the Natural History Museum for longer than Dippy, arriving in 1891, just 10 years after the museum opened.

It was found beached at the mouth of Wexford Habour on March 25 1891, after being injured by a whaler.

In the same year, the skeleton was bought for £250 from a Wexford merchant, to become part of the museum collection.

But the specimen only went on public display in 1938 with the opening of the Mammal Hall, where it is currently suspended over a life-size blue whale model.

Blue whales were hunted to near extinction for their oil, meat and body parts before starting to recover their numbers after being granted protected status.

The blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus, is the biggest animal ever to have lived on Earth.

Weighing up to 160 tonnes, it out-sizes even the largest dinosaur, the 70 tonne Argentinasaurus.

The Natural History Museum welcomes more than five million visitors a year.

It also operates as a world-leading research centre.

Dippy was unveiled at a special ceremony at the museum at 1pm on May 12 1905.

He was donated to the Museum by Scottish-born American millionaire and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie after King Edward VII saw an illustration of the original skeleton and asked for a copy.

The skeleton, which contains 356 plaster cast bones, was constructed over a period of 18 months and shipped to England in 36 crates.

Natural History Museum's Dippy the Diplodocus set to retire because he's 'not relevant' anymore

It is a replica of a near-complete Diplodocus skeleton unearthed in Wyoming, US, in 1898 and housed at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

Sir Michael told the Press Association that Dippy could end up as an additional exhibit in one of the museum's galleries.

Another possibility was laser-scanning his plaster bones to create another replica made of more durable material.

The "new" Dippy would be able to brave the elements outside in the museum grounds.

Sir Michael said: "We've just launched our new five-year plan for the museum, much of which is about what makes a museum special and different.

"The fundamental thing is our fantastic collection of real objects from the natural world. We're focusing on the real and authentic. Much loved as Dippy is, he's a plaster cast replica of a diplodocus, and one of a number around the world.

"We think this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-imagine the main hall.

"This is not about saying Dippy is of no value - he's an icon of the museum - but the new exhibit will allow us to tell a range of stories about the museum and its purpose. One is about the evolution of mammals, which is one of the big narratives the museum likes to talk about. Then we can tell a story about man's exploitation of the natural world. Finally, we can tell the story since 1967 over which time the blue whale population recovered tenfold."

A tour would allow many more people around the UK to see Dippy, said Sir Michael.

"One thing we have to consider is whether a plaster cast over 100 years old is actually durable enough to stand the shock," he added.

Eventually he thought it likely that Dippy would find a place alongside other dinosaurs in the museum.

UK's best museums
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Natural History Museum to take down "irrelevant" diplodocus skeleton

The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square and houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings.

The British Museum is dedicated to human history and culture and consists of some eight million objects. 

The Roman Baths consists the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects.

The Churchill War Rooms is one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. Visitors can discover the stories of those who worked underground as London was being bombed above them, and then find out more about the life and legacy of Winston Churchill in the interactive Churchill Museum.

The National Railway Museum tells the story of rail transport in Britain and its impact on society. It is the home of the national collection of historically significant railway vehicles, as well as a collection of other artefacts and both written and pictorial records.

National Museums Scotland was formed by Act of Parliament in 1985, amalgamating the former National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and The Royal Scottish Museum.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses one of Europe's great civic art collections. It is the most visited museum in the United Kingdom outside London.

SS Great Britain is a museum ship and former passenger steamship. It was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 - 1854.

The Natural History Museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology. The museum is a world-renowned centre of research specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation.


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World's best museums
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Natural History Museum to take down "irrelevant" diplodocus skeleton

Located in Chicago’s Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1879 and now has approximately 300,000 works of art in its permanent collection.

The Museo Nacional de Antropología is the most visited museum in Mexico. The museum contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from the pre-Columbian heritage of Mexico, such as the Stone of the Sun (or the Aztec calendar stone) and the 16th-century Aztec statue of Xochipilli.

The State Hermitage is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world. Its collections comprise over three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world.

The Getty Center is well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles. The Center draws 1.3 million visitors annually.

The Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze is the home of Michelangelo's sculpture David. It also has other sculptures by Michelangelo and a collection of Renaissance paintings. The main halls at the Accademia also offers visitors works by great Italian artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, Allessando Allori and Orcagna, to name just a few of the painters.

The Musée d'Orsay is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the United States and one of the ten largest in the world.

The Acropolis Museum is an archaeological museum focused on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens.

The Prado Museum in Madrid features one of the world's finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art. 

Established in 1953, as the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem is today a dynamic and vital place of intergenerational and international encounter.


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10 alternatives to London’s tourist traps
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Natural History Museum to take down "irrelevant" diplodocus skeleton

After years of craning our necks up, the View from the Shard is finally open for a spot of looking down on London. It’s sleek, stylish and does boast pretty incredible views. But for a fraction of the price (£3), you can stretch your legs and take in the town from the top of The Monument. Steeped in history, the building is bursting with character to be explored. Plus you get a rather charming certificate to prove you mastered the 311 steps. A short stroll away is the Heron Tower, where you can get a beer and a bar stool with just as good a view. Sorry Shardy.

It might miss the mark on exotic animals roaming around, but London’s city farms are free and fabulous. Head to Mudchute Farm in the east (riding the front seat of the DLR as you do), and spend a morning with sheep, donkeys, pigs and llamas, all with the backdrop of Canary Wharf overseeing proceedings. The café serves excellent hot and cold food, best washed down with a glass of homemade lemonade. Other farm locations in the capital include Vauxhall, Hackney and Kentish Town.

Every fancy hotel in London promises the best afternoon tea - seriously expensive scones and prim placemats guaranteed. For much more character (and just as good cake), head to the Secret Tea Room in Soho - above the Coach and Horses at 29 Greek Street (W1D 5DH). You take your seat via the washing up sink, and absolutely nothing matches. Which is all part of the charm. Afternoon tea from £17 per person, booking recommended.

The aromas of ostrich burgers and piles of cheese samples attract over four million visitors a year to Borough Market. A treat for the all the senses, yes, but this market does get jolly busy. Take a trip out of town to Greenwich and visit the roof-covered river side market for atmosphere, crafts, clothes and mouth-watering food to go. Watch the afternoon go by from the top of the hill.

A walk through Leicester Square or down Shaftsbury Avenue shows that chip shops in London are two a penny. But there’s nothing special about those ghastly Angus restaurants on every corner. Forget airs and graces and take a seat at the outdoor seating of Rock and Sole Plaice. Not only does the oldest London chippie get five stars for its epic punnery, but the fat chips, crispy batter and hearty mugs of tea make it a winning pit stop.

If you don’t fancy a dip in a lido or cold pond when the Great British Summer is in full swing (i.e, still a wee bit chilly), head to Oasis Sports Centre for a swim in the (heated!) outdoor pool. It’s blocked in by office and housing blocks, and the odd palm tree perched pool side gives it more than enough character. All for under £5 a swim.

Queuing around the block and a £15 entry fee? We do love a fish but a family day out with our scaly friends could easily top £100 if you head to London Aquarium. Never fear, there’s a little known gem in Dulwich called The Horniman Museum, with a £3 a pop aquarium, complete with star fish, sea horses and everyone’s favourite; the jellyfish.

Get your fix of the famous Abbey from the outside, then nip down the road to its less-famous cousin, Westminster Cathedral. Entry is free, and for £5 you can get the lift to the top of the tower for a view of the capital. Let us know if you also get the slightly dodgy tale from the guide about Will proposing to Kate at the top of the Tower…

The large yellow London duck which breezes along the Thames is a familiar sight in London and it's hugely popular with tourists. But you can get (almost) as close to the water - and thankfully stay a lot drier - with a ride on the Thames Clipper boat, all for the cost of a tube ride. Hop on board at Embankment and go all the way to Greenwich to get a real feel for the shape of the city. The snake of the river will surprise even the most hardened Londoner.

You might not get the recorded guide, but you certainly see the ‘real’ London with a ride aboard a public bus route, which naturally is cheaper than a tour bus. Buy a map and aim for the front seat of the double decker on route 211, Hammersmith to Waterloo. You will see everything from the Royal Albert Hall to the London Eye, without spending a small fortune. Choose a weekday after rush hour, around 10am for the best chance of the top seat. Bus 9 leaving from Piccadilly Circus (towards Kensington) is another fabulous route for the sights. 

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