It has long been the first sight to greet visitors to London’s Natural History Museum but soon visitors to the Ulster Museum can look forward to being greeted by the Natural History Museum’s iconic Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton.

‘Dippy’ the Diplodocus is set to take residence in the Ulster Museum from September 2018 as part of a road trip across the UK, as he ventures out of London for the first time since 1905.

Dippy will travel the length and breadth of the country from early 2018 to late 2020 visiting eight different venues. The British icon is on a mission to inspire five million natural history adventures, encouraging families to explore nature on their doorstep.  Supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation, it is hoped Dippy’s tour will spark the imagination of the next generation of scientists and connect the nation with nature.

The full 292-bone skeleton in its displayed pose is an impressive 21.3 metres long, 4.3 metres wide and 4.25 metres high. A total of 90 venues responded to the open-call for potential partners in 2015.

Since his unveiling in the Natural History Museum in 1905, Dippy the Diplodocus became a star, and has featured in newspaper cartoons, news reports and even played starring roles in film and television. Dippy is cast from the type specimen found in America.

The Diplodocus was first described as a new type of dinosaur in 1878 by Professor Othniel C Marsh at Yale University. The species lived sometime between 156 and 145 million years ago and belongs to a group called sauropods, meaning ‘lizard feet’. When railroad workers unearthed the fossilised bones of a Diplodocus in Wyoming, USA in 1898, newspapers billed the discovery as the ‘most colossal animal ever on Earth’.

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of National Museums Northern Ireland said, ““We are thrilled that Dippy will be coming to the Ulster Museum in Belfast, where he can be assured of a very warm Northern Irish welcome! It will give us a fantastic platform to uncover and connect to stories from our own extensive Natural Sciences collection. We look forward to creating an exciting programme of events for Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure that will appeal to all ages and inspire our visitors to engage more with the natural world in our area.”

Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum said, “We wanted Dippy to visit a variety of locations so he can draw in people that may not traditionally visit a museum. Making iconic items accessible to as many people as possible is at the heart of what museums give to the nation, so we have ensured that Dippy will still be free to view at all tour venues.”

Sir Michael added; “Working with our eight partners we look forward to inspiring five million natural history adventures and encouraging children from across the country to develop a passion for science and nature. Few museum objects are better known – surely no one object better evokes the awesome diversity of species that have lived on Earth?”