In January this year (2015), the Natural History Museum announced plans to replace the 26-metre cast of a Diplodocus dinosaur, popularly known as ‘Dippy’, that has stood in its main hall since 1979 with a 25-metre skeleton of a female blue whale. The new exhibit is expected to be hung from the ceiling in 2017. But no-one had consulted Dippy…
Dippy Diplodocus stood her ground:
“I’ll not from here be moved.
I’m a tourist magnet, the star of the show,
And cannot be improved.”
“You’ve been where you are for thirty-six years,”
The curators explained, “And we love you;
But time marches on, and we’ve got this idea
For something to hang just above you.
“There just isn’t room for two creatures your size.
In a couple of years, we’ll unveil
Something we think will still pull in the crowds:
It’s the skeleton of a blue whale.”
“A whale,” thundered Dippy, a-rattling her bones.
“What’s a whale got that I haven’t, pray?
Compared to my Jurassic vintage, your whale
Arrived on the scene yesterday!1”
“Well, Dippy old thing,” the curators went on,
“The fact is, you’re only a copy –
Just a century-old2 plaster cast, one of ten.
So calm down, and don’t get so stroppy.
“The good news for you is, you could go on tour –
It’s high time that you had some fresh air;
And we’ll knock up a weatherproof version to stand
In the garden here. Isn’t that fair?”
Dippy’s reaction cannot be reported:
The air in the hall became blue.
Which is fitting, because in a couple of years,
The inhabitant will be blue, too.
1 Whales are thought to have evolved from hoofed land mammals, returning to the sea about 50 million years ago
2 Actually, more than a century: the cast was donated in 1905 by Andrew Carnegie and is based on an original specimen in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. The other nine are in museums worldwide – there’s one in Paris.