DIPPY ON TOUR
Once upon a time, somewhere between 233 and 243 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, Dippy the Diplodocus Dinosaur was born. Earth was his home, and in a dazzling array of shapes, colours and sizes, many more ferocious carnivorous predators and placid plant eaters roamed freely across every Continent. In spite of their differences, these over-sized reptiles all had one thing (although they didn’t know it) in common….extinction. There are many theories as to why Dippy the Dinosaur and his friends all died out, but Scientists believe a huge meteor crashing into Earth was the probable cause of their tragic demise. I’m not a scientist, and therefore I’m not going to argue the point for or against this theory.
Although our friend Dippy the Dinosaur isn’t a living and breathing dinosaur any more, he is (and always will be) alive in our hearts and imaginations. Present day, Dippy is managing to travel the length and breadth of the UK educating visitors young and old alike.
FALLING IN LOVE WITH DIPPY
When we learned of Dippy on Tour, the levels of excitement in The Callaghan Posse household reached astronomical levels. Lily-Belle has always had a fascination with gemstones and fossils, in particular Ammonites. A love for Dinosaurs, her favourite being the Diplodocus; came from learning about Dinosaurs in her P3 schooling. During a visit to London in 2014. we paid a family visit to the Natural History Museum and there, in all his huge splendour, was Dippy….absolutely enormous. At a fraction under 70ft in length, Dippy is a seriously impressive sight to behold.
DIPPY ON TOUR
Dippy, a plaster cast replica of the fossilised bones of Diplodocus carnegii; arrived in the UK back in 1905, and since 1979 his place of residence has been the Hintze Hall in the Natural History Museum in London. In need of a change of scenery, Dippy left the Natural History Museum in 2017 for a road trip.
The Dippy on Tour tour will see him make appearances at several locations across the UK. If you’ve never seen Dippy or if you have any interest in Dinosaurs, fossils or the natural world, please do pay this magnificent gentle giant a visit, you won’t be disappointed. If you wish to see the real Dippy, you will have to visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburg, USA.
FULL LIST OF DIPPY ON TOUR VENUES AND DATES
Knowing our old friend Dippy was coming to the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Mummy sent the museum a cheeky email to see if there was any possibility of a sneak peek before Dippy was introduced to the general public. With great delight, we were ecstatic to receive a reply giving us access to Dippy the day before the rest of Northern Ireland. Even better still, Lily-Belle would get a personal meeting with Dr Simms…Curator of the magnificent Ulster Museum.
DEEPLY DIPPY…BUT NOT RIGHT SAID FRED
Every time I type the word Dippy, the song ‘Deeply Dippy‘ by Right Said Fred pops into my head…nightmare! It’s the day of our visit to see Dippy and we’re all super excited. The girls bring their Dippy cuddly toys and Disney’s The Good Dinosaur is playing on the car DVD players…Ulster Museum here we come.
The journey from our home to Belfast takes around 90 minutes. For the whole 90 minutes all we heard from the back seat was a clichéd ‘are we nearly there yet’! Let’s put it this way, Mummy and Daddy were very glad when we arrived.
FOLLOWING IN A FOSSIL’S FOOTSTEPS
Upon arrival to the Ulster Museum and as you enter through the large glass sliding doors, your eyes are immediately drawn to the huge dinosaur footprints on the floor…Dippy has definitely arrived, and obviously has never heard of wiping his feet! Dippy’s prints lead all the way to level 5 and to the entrance of the Dippy on Tour exhibition. Of course, you don’t get to see Dippy straight away, but what you do see is a history, a story and a lot of information about a little boy named Mike? Who?
WHEN I GROW UP
The walls have colourful artwork and little teasers of information relating to fossils, dinosaurs and Mike? As we read and discover more about this little boy, we began to ask ourselves had we come to the right place, it seemed that this exhibition was all about a boy named Mike and his love of Dinosaurs? Protected by a glass case, a neatly written piece of paper catches our eye. The paper was written by 8 year old Mike in the Autumn of 1969. The short piece is an introduction of Mike, to his classmates, sharing his love of fossils, snakes, fish etc, and documenting his desire to become a Geologist when he grows up.
On the other side of the glass case there was a drawing of Dippy the Diplodocus. A detailed drawing sketched entirely from Mike’s memory. This is how Mike remembered this magnificent Dinosaur whom he visited in the Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum in London 1969.
THE BIG REVEAL…….WHO IS MIKE?
You see, little Mike is in fact Dr Mike Simms, the Curator of the Ulster Museum (for 22 years) and the man that Lily-Belle was looking forward to meeting. Dr Simms, or Mike as he much prefers to be called; much like Lily-Belle, had an infatuation with Dippy from the age of 6 and this infatuation has stayed with him to this very day. How special that the forces of Mike and Dippy have come together to bring such a wonderful and unique experience for you and I to enjoy…this is Dippy On Tour!
DIPPY IS PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK
As we take in all that the Dippy On Tour exhibit has to offer, the excitement continues to build in anticipation of meeting Dippy himself. Just before this beautiful specimen comes into full view, there’s the opportunity to catch a glimpse through strategically placed peep holes in the dividing wall. Just enough of a view to see a little of Dippy…but not all. Excited!
After her brief glimpse, Matilda’s not so sure about continuing into the main hall. She is scared. To put her little mind at ease she asks a range of questions, and of course we provide the answers.
Q1: Daddy, will Dippy breathe fire and eat me……erm, no.
Q2: Is Dippy still alive….again, the answer is no.
Q3: If he (Dippy) has got no skin, will I be able to see all of his blood…and yet again, it’s a no.
Poor Matilda! One can only imagine what horrors our 4 year old has conjured up in her head. Lily-Belle knows exactly what to expect and is eager to continue to the hall and see her favourite Dinosaur once more. Our journey continues, around the final corner.
BEHOLD THE MAGNIFICENT DIPPY
And there stands Dippy…right in front of us. Just one word is needed…wow! Dippy is 69.88 feet in length, 13.94 feet in height, 14.10 feet in width and if he was alive today, would weigh in at a whopping 13 tonnes…what a big boy!
Lily-Belle stood in awe (as Mummy and Daddy thought), but as it happens, she was actually thinking Dippy looked smaller than when she first laid eyes on him. Mummy passed this off with a statement that the Ulster Museum hall is a lot smaller than the Hintze Hall in the National History Museum (which it is), that and also the fact that Lily-Belle herself had grown.
There is absolutely no need for anything fancy around Dippy, quite simply put, it’s just him.
Standing in front of Dippy it’s very easy to lose yourself in the moment and allow your mind to wander through Dinosaur history. I wondered to myself how old would Dippy have been when he died? I wondered if he died of natural causes, or had he indeed died from a meteor collision with Earth? Don’t ask me why, but personally, I couldn’t help but feel saddened as I stood looking at this colossal herbivore.
GETTING TOUCHY FEELY
As well as teaching all about Dippy and Dinosaurs, the Dippy On Tour exhibition encourages children to become engaged with plenty of ‘touch and feel’ activities. There’s a table with colouring pens and paper for little ones to draw their own dinosaurs, just like Mike did all those years ago. The exhibition is all about encouraging our children to learn, to explore, and most importantly…to follow their dreams. Mike was just 6 when he became interested in Geology, and look at him present day, a Geologist, Author, Palaeontologist and the Curator of a museum. Always follow your interests and dreams, because dreams really do come true!
As much as we want to tell you all about the Dippy On Tour exhibition in greater detail, we won’t, we will leave that for you to find out for yourselves. Tickets are free so there’s no excuse, visit the Ulster Museum website for further information and to secure your tickets. Dr Simms, sorry Mike, was waiting in the wings to have a chat with future archaeologist, Lily-Belle.
CHATTING WITH THE CURATOR
The wonderful Dippy On Tour exhibition has transported Mike right back to his childhood, and as he chats openly to us, it is clear that the love he had for ‘all things fossil’ as a boy, still exudes the same excitement in him today. Reflecting back on the picture of Dippy that he drew as a boy, Mike shares many more memories of his childhood.
Lily-Belle presented a couple of her own Ammonites for Mike to see.
Prior to leaving home, Lily-Belle prepared an A4 page full of questions for Dr Mike Simms to answer. And very obligingly, Mike answers all of Lily-Belle’s questions. And just look at that fantastic Stegosaurus tie…awesome.
THIS LITTLE FLAME OF MINE
Quite often children see things that adults don’t. That is why not every child will be filled with excitement about going to visit a museum. But, just like Mike and his visit to see Dippy back in 1969, and just like Lily-Belle that day in London when she first saw Dippy; the very first experience of ‘something’ can often ignite a ‘little flame’ within that can burn inside for many years. Before you know it, the ‘little flame’ becomes an unstoppable fire and the next Geologist or Archaeologist is born.
WHY MUST GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END
Gazing in awe of Dippy, peering into the eye of a microscope or drawing a picture of Dippy just like Mike did all those years ago; the Dippy On Tour Exhibition doesn’t disappoint. Our visit has come to an end. To finish off, dinosaur shaped biscuits and juice. But wait, Mike leads us to a glass case filled with a number of his childhood books. Mike singles out one particular book and a soft smile appears on his face. He tells us a story of a book about dinosaurs, a nun and three words imprinted on the cover of his favourite Dinosaur book; those words are Fearless Fred and Kilburn. We won’t spoil it, but when you see Mike, ask him about those three words…we dare you!
FAREWELL DIPPY…UNTIL THE NEXT TIME
Exploring done, pictures and videos done and more memories gathered. It’s time to hit the road once again. Dippy On Tour leaves the Ulster Museum, Belfast on Sunday 6th January 2019. We bid a fond farewell to our old friend Dippy, and we say cheerio to our new friend, Mike.
With a very special thank you to:
- Dippy the Dinosaur
- Dr Mike Simms – Curator of Natural Sciences at National Museums Northern Ireland
- Gillian Grattan – Consultant, JComms
- Sinead Cunningham – Head of Marketing & PR at National Museums Northern Ireland
Thank you for making our visit memorable and a roooooooaaaaaaring success!
LILY-BELLE (age 9) SAYS
I couldn’t wait to see Dippy again, but was really excited knowing I would be getting to meet Dr Simms. I showed him a few ammonites from my own collection, I think he liked them. The Dippy On Tour exhibition is great for children and adults and there’s lots of stuffed animals on display. I had a great day and hopefully I’ll be an archaeologist when I’m older, or a marine biologist.
MATILDA (age 3) SAYS
I liked Dippy and looking through the scopie thing (microscope). The dinosaur biscuits were really yummy.
Ulster Museum Northern Ireland
Date of visit: 27th September 2018
Entry to the museum: free (donation boxes throughout)
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 – 17:00 (closed Mondays)
Tel: +44 (0)2890 440000
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Views, opinions and experiences are that of The Callaghan Posse and are correct at the time of publication.
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