In Haunt

Dippy the Diplodocus is no ordinary visitor. He is recognised by many as the dinosaur skeleton cast which stood inside London’s Natural History Museum for more than 110 years – 4.17 metres tall and consisting of over 290 bones, with at least 70 in his tail alone. Now he is going on tour, and Rochdale is his North West stop – for five months!

Dippy On Tour

‘Dippy on Tour’ has been developed in partnership with the Garfield Weston Foundation, and seeks to connect audiences country-wide with this amazing artefact.

Dippy began his journey around the country in 2018, and is stopping at just 8 venues in the UK in total – with Rochdale announced as hosting the dinosaur skeleton from February 2020 to June 2020. In turn, Rochdale is expected to attract crowds from across the North, coming to enjoy the unique opportunity and pay Dippy a visit.

So far he has stopped at Dorset, Birmingham, Ulster and Glasgow – with a visit to Newcastle and the National Museum Cardiff planned, before then coming to Rochdale, followed by the final stop of Norwich Cathedral.

He has certainly proved popular so far, with over 153,189 people visiting Dippy during his time at Dorset County Museum (that’s more than the venue’s annual visitor figures, after less than three months!), and when at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, more than a quarter of a million people visited Dippy, making him the most successful temporary exhibition the venue has ever had.[1]

When in Rochdale, Dippy’s home will be at the award-winning Number One Riverside building on Smith Street – a building which also incorporates a customer service centre, offices and the Central Library. This easily-accessible location will offer an impressive space for the public to visit Dippy and to find out more about him, emphasizing Rochdale as highly varied place to visit.

Number One Riverside Building

Rochdale was selected as Dippy’s North West home despite an intense bidding process against 90 other venues across the country. A strong bid was submitted thanks to a partnership between Rochdale Borough Council and Link4Life – a culture and leisure trust which also manages Touchstones Rochdale Museum and Art Gallery (and where HAUNT Manchester met the intriguing Dr Oliver Bishop).

 A range of related activities will also be organized in the town during Dippy’s stay, suitable for young and old alike, allowing people from across the region to learn about Dippy, dinosaurs and history – delivered again in partnership with Link4Life.

Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member for Neighbourhoods, Community and Culture at Rochdale Borough Council, said: 

“This must be the first time an internationally famous museum exhibit has been placed in a council building and I think it is fantastic. In doing this, both ourselves and the Natural History Museum are bringing the natural collection right to people’s doorstep and that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our young people, many of whom would not be able to see these incredible artefacts in their usual home. 

“Rochdale might seem like an unconventional location for Dippy, but we have a compelling story to tell. As a place which was at the forefront of the industrial revolution, we inadvertently damaged the environment, but we are now leading the way in a sustainable development and our host venue Number One Riverside, which has a number of environmentally friendly features, is probably the best example of that.” 

Dippy is after all no stranger to travelling. He was cast from the original bones of a diplodocus that was on display in Carnegie Museum, Pittsburg USA. The story goes that King Edward VII of England inspired a cast of this skeleton to be made after he saw a sketch of the original – and expressed how much he wanted one for the Natural History Museum in London!

Diplodocus Head

A replica cast was then created and travelled to the UK from the USA by steamboat, taking up a total of 36 crates. Following four months of preparing and assembling, Dippy then went on display to the public in 1905.

During his time at The Natural History Museum in London, Dippy also moved around the building itself. He started out in what was the Reptile Gallery – partly because he was too large for the Fossil Reptile Gallery at the time! He has also spent a period in the museum’s basement – in an attempt to protect the skeleton cast from bomb damage in World War Two, and then displayed in Hintze Hall until 2017.

But Dippy has not just changed places over time, he has changed shape too. He is one of ten replicas of the original D. carnegii Diplodocus – with the actual dinosaur itself estimated to have lived between 156 and 145 million years ago. The original cast featured Dippy with his head and tail pointing down, though this was changed in the 1960s – as research showed that the species would have its neck in a vertical position and often moved with its tail largely in the air.

In turn, Dippy has the towering neck and long, curving tail people recognise today – and that people will be able to see for themselves in Rochdale next year.

By Emily Oldfield

Image credits:

Image 1: Dippy on Tour Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (14) © Trustees of the Natural History Museum 2018.jpg - by Rebecca Mair

Image 2: Number One Riverside, Rochdale

Image 3: Diplodocus head at NHM © Trustees of the Natural History Museum 2018.JPG - by Rebecca Mair


[1] Results from Bluegrass Research – Calculating the Economic Impact of ‘Dippy on Tour’ on Birmingham City Centre




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