Is the Natural History Museum right to get rid of 'Dippy'? We asked two writers with very different opinions to give us their views. Here, Tom Mendelsohn says yes. To read why Charlie Cooper says no, click here.
The internet has been wracked with grief this morning, with the news that ‘Dippy’, as literally no one has ever called it, the famous, enormous diplodocus skeleton that dominated the front hall of the Natural History Museum, is to end his tenure as the best exhibit in Britain.
Instead, to the unquenchable misery of so many overgrown children, the museum is preparing to hang the bones of a common or garden blue whale from the ceiling.
The people are rallying, however. There’s a hashtag, there’s a petition, and you can bet your sweet bippy that there’ll be some gratingly twee protest of some sort to follow, as a public who can’t quite ever let go has its say.
There hasn’t been such a blossoming of shared national pain since the mists of a few weeks ago, when Cadbury’s announced minor changes to the recipe of the gritty milk byproduct it calls Crème Eggs, when again, the middle class outrage machine span itself into apoplexy. Apparently the specific make-up of cloying cocoa-flavoured e-numbers is a major issue of our time. People lost their minds over it, generating a dying stars’ worth of heat, light and money-can’t-buy PR over triviality.
And now they’re at it again, with just as much purpose for just as pointless a cause. Old Dippy, whose dumb dinosaur brain might be turning in its grave over such an insulting name were it not stood in a giant Victorian foyer, has only even been there in for 35 years or so - it’s not like we’re bulldozing Stonehenge. Anyway, its very existence is a malicious lie: the fossil is a cast.
In pictures: 12 amazing archaeological discoveries
In pictures: 12 amazing archaeological discoveries
1/12 Ancient forest, discovered in February 2014
Ancient forest revealed by storms. The recent huge storms and gale force winds that have battered the coast of West Wales have stripped away much of the sand from stretches of the beach between Borth and Ynyslas. The disappearing sands have revealed ancients forests, with the remains of oak trees dating back to the Bronze Age, 6,000 years ago. The ancient remains are said by some to be the origins of the legend of ‚Cantre‚r Gwealod‚ , a mythical kingdom now submerged under the waters pif Cardigan Bay
2/12 Medieval royal palaces, discovered in November 2014
Archaeologists in southern England have discovered what may be one of the largest medieval royal palaces ever found – buried under the ground inside a vast prehistoric fortress at Old Sarum. The probable 12th century palace was discovered by archaeologists, using geophysical ground-penetrating ‘x-ray’ technology to map a long-vanished medieval city which has lain under grass on the site for more than 700 years
3/12 The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered ca. 1950
The Dead Sea Scrolls are almost 1,000 biblical manuscripts discovered in the decade after the Second World War in what is now the West Bank. The texts, mostly written on parchment but also on papyrus and bronze, are the earliest surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents known to be in existence, dating over a 700-year period around the birth of Jesus. The ancient Jewish sect the Essenes is supposed to have authored the scrolls, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, although no conclusive proof has been found to this effect
4/12 Diamond, discovered in March 2014
This rare diamond that survived a trip from deep within the Earth's interior confirmed that there is an ocean’s worth of water beneath the planet’s crust
5/12 Whale skeletons, discovered in February 2014
Chilean and Smithsonian paleontologists study several fossil whale skeletons at Cerro Ballena, next to the Pan-American Highway in the Atacama Region of Chile
6/12 Complete mammoth skeleton, discovered in November 2012
The first complete mammoth skeleton to be found in France for more than a century was uncovered in a gravel pit on the banks of the Marne, 30 miles north-east of Paris. Picture shows experts at work making a silicon cast of the mammoth's tusk
7/12 Million-year-old human footprints, discovered in February 2014
Photograph of the footprint hollows in situ on the beach as Happisburgh, Norfolk
8/12 Terracotta warrior, discovered in June 2010
Chinese archaeologists unearthed around 120 more clay figures in June 2010 excavations at the terracotta army site that surrounds the tomb of the nation's first emperor in the northwestern Shaanxi Province
© Jason Lee / Reuters
9/12 Neolithic 'lost avenue' - prehistoric stone circle, discovered in September 1999
The discovery of a Neolithic 'lost avenue' was described as one of the most important finds of the last century. Since the 1700s, archeologists and historians have argued over the existence of the huge sarsen stones, which were unearthed at the site of the world's biggest prehistoric stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire
10/12 Byzantine mosaic, discovered in February 2007
Plans for a walkway at the centre of the furious dispute over Jerusalem's holiest site were delayed by the discovery of a Byzantine mosaic
11/12 Ancient gold, discovered in March 2014
Gold fitting for a dagger sheath (around 1900 BC.) found near Stonehenge
12/12 Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799
The Rosetta Stone is a basalt slab inscribed with a decree of pharaoh Ptolemy Epiphanes (205-180 BC) in three languages, Greek, Hieroglyphic and Demotic script. Discovered near Rosetta in Egypt
They don’t point this out to you, as a child, or if they do, they sneak a tiny reference into the small print, like a greedy TV lawyer, the very subterfuge proving the villainy of the act. Because we all remember the wonderment of the first time we stepped into that hall and were confronted with something that massive and alien and awe-inspiring. Nothing could touch the feeling of reaching out and touching the oldest thing you’re likely ever to have seen, and realising that once it was alive.
That feeling of wonder is polluted by the knowledge that it’s just a model, and that the real one is in Pittsburgh. Most of the others are fake too, in natural history museums across the country. Even the T-rex head I used to stand by and stare at until my dad got bored and made me look at trilobites or something.
So here’s the thing: change is good, and museums need to move with the rest of us to stay relevant. That pseudo-skeleton is still pretty great, but blue whales are even huger and just as amazing. The museum’s rationale – that we need to highlight the peril facing still-living species – is on point. Instead of wasting your energies organising protests that might preserve your childhoods in emotional formaldehyde, why not open your mind and embrace new things, like just how enormous a whale can actually get?Reuse content