Dippy’s Off, But What’s The Real Reason?



The diplodocus has always been there, right in the centre of the Natural History Museum, causing kids to crane their necks and work out how many London buses-long he was (why were dinosaurs always measured in buses?). But after 112 years he’s off.¬†Dippy was the first upright skeleton of a diplodocus ever to have gone on display, and although he’s just a replica (Scots industrialist Andrew Carnegie snaffled the original for his Pittsburgh museum) he’s a symbol of Kensington’s entire museum complex.

He even got to star in the Disney film ‘One of our Dinosaurs is Missing’, and now he’s being replaced by a blue whale, the discovery of whose bones actually predates the dinosaur’s. All well and fine, but it had me wondering. The Natural History Museum is – like all other major London venues, including the zoo – used as an event space at night, and the whale will free up the floor because it’s suspended.

So is this just a way of increasing floor space for cocktails and party guests? My nearest local museum (just a few metres from my door) is the Canal Museum. It’s not much of a museum but popular as a party space throughout the year, which is how it makes its money. The Covent Garden Masonic Lodge (that extraordinary building at the end of Long Acre) was used to host a ‘Spiderman’ premiere. Are museums and galleries being pushed harder to become self-financing?

London’s event spaces are vanishing as property prices soar. I’ve been to events held in old schools, warehouses, train sheds, bus garages, rooftops and car parks, all of which have since been built over or changed. Perhaps it’s the price we pay for keeping beautiful buildings open.

9 comments on “Dippy’s Off, But What’s The Real Reason?”

  1. Brooke says:

    Same here in US– wish it were not so but it pays the bills and gets more of the fat cats to donate, which the rest of us cannot afford..

  2. Ian Mason says:

    > why were dinosaurs always measured in buses?

    Because it would be patently ludicrous to measure them in in other customary units such as elephants, football pitches or Olympic swimming pools.

    I’ve always said that when I’m dictator of the United kingdom, that I’m going to be moving into the Natural History Museum as my London residence. Given how rotten UK politics and politicians have become, the powers-that-be are obviously planning to ask me to take over, and are preparing the space so that I can use the hall as my living room. After Sal and I move in, you’re all invited round for a cup of tea, some cake and a chat.

  3. Vivienne says:

    I did once go to a party at the NHM in a room with the whale. This was, I think, about 20 years ago. Interesting but we felt it was a poor second to a dinosaur even then. So, will look forward to a visit to Ian, if I can bring a well- behaved grandson. One of our Dinosaurs is Missing is a great children’s book too.

  4. Wayne Mook says:

    It also features a splendid steam truck.

    Where are they going to put dippy?

    I have to admit The NHM is one of my favourite places anywhere.


  5. Helen Martin says:

    The museums and galleries are all free to the public. The government will not cover the real cost of running these places so besides providing large donation boxes for the public there have to be steady streams of income. A museum or art gallery will just gobble up all the money you can find for it. Free admission is obviously a good thing and I appreciated it tremendously when I visited because you didn’t have to gorge on exhibits to maximise the use of the admission fee but we have to donate whatever we can to keep the roof on and the heating working as well as exhibits being maintained and updated.

  6. Ness says:

    Dinosaurs should always be measured in lengths of Blue Whale. Just ask Alan Davies.

  7. Brian Evans says:

    Oh Dear, Ian! We can’t both be dictator of the UK. So, it’s handbags at dawn then…

  8. Jan says:

    First stop for Dip the dino is Dorchester museum where he will just about fit in the main exhibition hall. Well his tail might stick out of the,back door …
    Then he’s off to Brum I think then up north and to Scotland

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Traveling more in replica than he (?) did in life likely then, Jan?

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