Dippy is a celebrity dinosaur, a beautiful and imposing specimen of the species Diplodocus carnegeli, one of the awe-inspiring giant long-necked sauropods. But what might surprise regular museum goers around the world who feel they know Dippy intimately, is that there are many copies of this beloved and impressive creature, each hosted in different institutions across the globe.
Only one of these is “real”, the rest are casts, most often in plaster. But the feeling of meeting this amazing dinosaur is no less spectacular wherever you see it. I’ve visited Dippy in eight different locations myself already, and am never anything less than amazed by how impressive this beautiful and magnificent creature is. Seeing Dippy in different locales you are also rewarded with spectacular collections of other dinosaurs displays surrounding it (not to mention whatever else each museum hosts), plus the unique experiences of varied architectural settings, and little history in dinosaur physiology too. So where can you find Dippy? All these places:
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA — The original
The real Dippy can be found in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States of America. The species is named Diplodocus carnegeli after the founder of that institution, Andrew Carnegie.
The specimen was first discovered in 1899 in Sheep Creek, Wyoming, and is actually a composite of multiple animals found at that site, to create a single specimen to describe the species and for exhibit. It wasn’t publicly displayed until 1907, as the existing museum building required an extension in order to house it!
Dippy was remounted in 2007 to bring its pose up to date with contemporary understanding of dinosaur physiology, and can now be found in the Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit alongside many other species, in displays designed to mimic the environments the dinosaurs lived in.
Natural History Museum, London, England — The first cast
Before the real Dippy was displayed a plaster cast was created at the request of British King Edward VII, who had been impressed by an illustration of the animal. This was first exhibited in 1905 at the Natural History Museum in London, and remained on display their for over a century. For a long time it was the iconic central display of the entrance hall of the museum — This is where I fell in love with Dippy; cementing my fascination with dinosaurs, and awe for all the wonders of nature.
Dippy was removed from this prominent location in 2017, to make room for an alternate installation, a suspended real skeleton of one of the few animals bigger than Diplodocus to ever exist, the extant Blue Whale —A change I do now love for the focus on preserving the wonders of the living world today, and being a really amazing display. But I still lament the loss of Dippy.
Dippy isn’t gone for good though, there are plans for a brand new bronze casting, which would see the dinosaur take pride of place in new nature gardens outside the museum, welcoming visitors as they make their way to the entrance.
Dippy on Tour, all over the UK
Following its departure from the Natural History Museum in London, that cast of Dippy embarked on a multi-year tour of Britain, taking pride of place in museums in every corner of the nation, with visits to locations in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Starting in 2018 Dippy visited the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Ulster Museum in Belfast; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow; Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle upon Tyne; National Museum Cardiff; Number One Riverside in Rochdale; and finally Norwich Cathedral in 2021. Each site (most of which I found my way to until covid made me miss a stop) saw the animal presented in completely differ architectural surroundings, and with unique companion exhibitions at each location. What will become of this cast after the final stop of the tour is not yet known.
Natural History Museum, Berlin, Germany
Following the London exhibit, numerous casts were created for other museums in the early years of the 20th century. The next copy displayed in public came in 1908, when a new Dippy arrived at the Museum für Naturkunde (Natural History Museum) in Berlin.
Today this cast of Dippy is displayed in a modern pose alongside several other dinosaurs, including other sauropod species: The smaller Dicraeosaurus, and the towering Brachiosaurus; the tallest dinosaur display in the world! Visiting this display fulfilled a long held dream of mine, and seeing the sheer scale of the Brachiosaurs actually made me cry in awe at what an incredible animal it was — Sorry Dippy, this time you’re the support act.
Another cast of Dippy also exists in Germany, one which was supplied to the Paläontologisches Museum (Palaeontological Museum) in Munich in 1934 in exchange for other specimens. However this copy has never been mounted or displayed, and indeed was quite forgotten about for several decades.
French National Natural History Museum, Paris, France
Also arriving in Europe in 1908, another cast of Dippy was supplied to the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (French National Natural History Museum) in Paris.
This Dippy is displayed in the enormous and very long Planetology exhibition hall, alongside numerous other dinosaurs and other pre-historic creatures. Unlike the London and Berlin specimens, this copy of Dippy remains in a historic mount, with its tail dragging along the floor behind it, rather than whipping high in the air.
Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria
1909 brought a cast of Dippy to the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Musem) in Vienna; personally accepted by Emperor Franz Josef. Today this copy of Dippy remains the centrepiece of the dinosaur exhibit in the museum, sharing its central plinth with Allosaurus and Iguanodon specimens.
While standing beneath a contrasting and rather grand 19th century ceiling, this exhibit was updated in 2011 to bring the dinosaur displays up to date with science of the day. This included an animatronic Allosaurus which now also shares the centre stage with Dippy.
Giovanni Capellini Museum, Bologna, Italy
Another of the 1909 batch of casts arrived in Italy as a gift to King Victor Emmanuel III, and has been at home ever since at the Museo Geologico Giovanni Capellini (Giovanni Capellini Geological Museum) in Bologna.
While the museum has the classic feel of an 19th/20th century institution, Dippy’s display has been updated over the years, and its neck and tail are now subtly suspended from the ceiling, giving this particular mount an uncommonly natural sense of supporting itself.
Orlov Museum of Paleontology, Moscow, Russia
1910 saw a copy of Dippy arrive in Russia, initially housed at the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. This was later moved to the Paleontologicheskiy Muzey Im. Yu.a. Orlova (Orlov Museum of Paleontology) in Moscow, where it remains to this day.
The current version of that museum was opened in 1987, and gives a large space for dinosaur displays, where Dippy is of course the main attraction, standing among numerous other species; sharing the spotlight with other larger dinosaurs; a Saurolophus and Tarbosaurus. They are arranged in front of an enormous mural showing dinosaurs in their environment. While this is a relatively modern building, it isn’t quite new enough for Dippy to escape being mounted once more in a rather dated tail-dragging posture.
La Plata Museum, Argentina
After initial offerings to leaders and museums in Europe, Carnegie’s efforts to make ever more replicas also took Dippy to South America, with the next cast arriving in Museo de La Plata (La Plata Museum), in Argentina.
This cast has been remounted and moved over the years, and currently is constrained in a colonnaded hall. Like the modern Austrian mount, this version of dippy has the neck and tail suspended from above, but to greater effect in a much brighter and more open space.
Museum of Natural History, Mexico City, Mexico
After the first seven casts were distributed there was a long pause before Dippy would again be cloned, in which time World War I occurred, and Andrew Carnegie died. His widow Louise Carnegie renewed efforts in the 1930s, with a newly made copy heading to Mexico (the undisplayed Munich cast was made at this time too).
Dippy was housed at the Museo de Historia Natural (Museum of Natural History) in Mexico City. Although due to a lack of space, the museum’s director, Alfonso Herrera, had hoped he might be supplied with a bronze cast that could be displayed outdoors. His hopes were dashed due to the great cost of such an effort, and ultimately he found space for it standing beneath a suspended whale display.
The museum had long held plans to move to larger premises, and that eventually happened in the 1960s. Dippy was moved to the modern new building, and now stands pride of place beneath an enormous domed ceiling, sharing the space with a giant flying pterosaur, Quetzalcoatlus.
While it is currently a more muted rocky grey tone shared by the other casts, one round of restoration at the turn of the 21st century saw this Dippy painted white for a time, giving it an almost caricatured skeletal appearance.
Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, Vernal, Utah, USA
There was another pause before the next cast was created, when in 1957 the original molds were used to make a concrete version of the dinosaur, allowing the new Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal to display this version of Dippy outside. This unique display was further distinguished by being painted red and having an unusually positioned neck bent alarmingly upwards, making this a much taller mount than typical for the animal.
Alas this Dippy did not have the longevity of the others, which all remain on display. After weathering for three decades it was dismantled in 1989. But the museum did not lose Dippy, a brand new cast was made from fiberglass and polyester, and mounted indoors, in a dynamic tail swishing new pose. This remains one of the most life-life (by current understanding) mounts of the animal. It’s also the most accessible, not trapped behind barriers or atop a plinth, visitors can walk right underneath the giant creature; experiencing its scale in a way no other current display permits.
All photos by the author. Video credits embedded
Museum websites: Carnegie Museum of Natural History (archive article), Natural History Museum (Dippy on Tour, Urban Nature Project), Museum für Naturkunde, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Naturhistorisches Museum, Paleontologicheskiy Muzey Im. Yu.a. Orlova, Museo de Historia Natural, Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum.
Also from me, that time I made gingerbread dinosaurs: