Dinosaur Travels

The dinosaur is on a road trip. He — diplodocus carnegii, that is — lived in was is now the US state of Wyoming somewhere between 161 to 145 million years ago.

Since then, he’s been on a few travels. At this writing he is Kelvingrove Musuem and Art Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland.

dippy dinosaur Kelvingrove glasgow scotland by kerry dexter

Until recently, Dippy, as he’s known for short, had been residing at the Natural History Museum in London for a bit more than one hundred years, since 1905. A blue whale skeleton needed that space, though. What, the museum staff asked themselves, can we do with Dippy? Not only is he an important part of the natural history of the planet, he’s well loved by museum staff and by kids and adults across the UK who have visited him. Just put him in storage? No, that’s not right — we’ll send him out on a tour!

Dippy is about as long as two buses end to end. His 292 bones fill up thirteen crates. He couldn’t go just anywhere, for space reasons alone. It was also an opportunity to encourage people who came to see him to explore the natural history of their own places. A UK-wide competition was set out, with conditions about space, security, and education programs. Kelvingrove came up tops along with seven other places. Kelvingrove is about the midway point of Dippy’s road trip.

That’s where I had the chance to meet up with him.

dippy1 dinosaur Kelvingrove glasgow scotland by kerry dexter

Kelvingrove’s center hall is an impressive space on its own and is usually filled with a variety of exhibits, information desks, meeting spaces, and the cafe. All that’s to the good, and it has all been moved to make way for Dippy.

He really does suit the space. Kelvingrove was on the way to being opened when far away in Wyoming in the 1890s , scientists were beginning to find bones that would lead them to diplodocus carnegeii. On the other side of the US, in Pittsburgh, Andrew Carnegie was building a natural history museum. He found out about their discoveries, got involved in funding further work (that’s why it was named after him), and Dippy came to his museum in Pittsburgh.

Then Dippy — and Carnegie — became involved in diplomacy. King Edward VII of England saw a drawing of Dippy’s skeleton and wanted to have one for the Natural History Museum in London. Transporting actual dinosaur skeletons is a difficult business. The idea of making plaster casts of the bones was born.

Carnegie had made a fortune in the steel business, and had turned his attention to issues of helping people improve themselves — all those Carnegie libraries, Carnegie Hall, that’s the man behind them– and, through that, to connecting people across countries to promote world peace. World peace through dinosaurs? It could help…

dippy dinosaur kelvingrove glasgow scotland by kerry dexter

Dippy sits well in Kelvingrove. He is very popular, and there are events for children and adults scheduled during his visit, as well as a special exhibition about Andrew Carnegie. Just walking around and thinking about time and change and everything else dinosaurs bring to mind is a good thing to do, too.

Here’s Dippy’s full UK schedule

10 February – 7 May 2018: Dorset County Museum, Dorchester
26 May – 9 September 2018: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham
28 September 2018 – 6 January 2019: Ulster Museum, Belfast
22 January – 5 May 2019: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
18 May – 6 October 2019: Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne
19 October 2019 – 26 January 2020: National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff
10 February – 28 June 2020: Number One Riverside, Rochdale
11 July – 31 October 2020: Norwich Cathedral, Norwich

What if you won’t be near any of these cities? Carnegie did not stop his dinosaur diplomacy with London; he sent Dippy skeletons to museums in Madrid, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Bologna, Moscow (originally in Saint Petersburg), Munich, and Mexico City.

The bones of a dinosaur which walked the earth long before recorded history, the resources of a man who’d immigrated to the US from Scotland as a poor boy and become a millionaire, the creative ideas of museum professionals in modern times: all that converged to bring Dippy the dinosaur to Kelvingrove, back to the land of Andrew Carnegie’s birth.

Kelvingrove, in Glasgow’s west end, is a treasure store of art, history, and natural history. It’s a fine place to explore, large dinosaur on visit or not. I’ll help you explore some of my favourite parts of Kelvingrove in future stories.

Photographs by Kerry Dexter

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