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Arts, Sports & Culture

Dippy Takes a Bath: Oakland Landmark Begins Much-Needed Repairs

Deanna Garcia
90.5 WESA

It’s become a familiar and iconic sight– the dinosaur stationed outside the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland.

The life-size cast of a Diplodocus carnegii, so-named for its discovery by a team of Carnegie scientists in 1899, was the first major dinosaur fossil in the museum. An accompanying statue, “Dippy,” took shape at its centennial, and so he's stood with no major maintenance since.

“Dippy ... has a sunburn,” said Leigh Kish, a spokeswoman for the museum. “The anti-graffiti coating was peeling off thanks to the heat and humidity. Dippy is also subject to freeze (and) thaw like some of our roads out here, but (repairs are) nothing major. He’s in good shape.”

Two weeks of near-constant pampering will ensure he stays that way, she said.

“He’s going through a little facelift,” Kish said. “They’re taking off the anti-graffiti coating down to the fiberglass statue, and then they will repaint him with a new, high-quality paint.”

Water splashed off Dippy's backside Tuesday as crews fired up power-washers for the first phase of his restoration. Possible minor repairs and detailing will follow, with experts keeping a keen eye on skin texture and structural integrity. Workers will prime and paint him, finishing with a fresh coat of anti-graffiti lacquer – as a precaution.

“In 16 years, he’s never been graffitied” Kish said. “People have respect for him.”

There are Dippy casts around the world, including one at the British Museum in London. Kish said the Diplodocus has become the Carnegie Museum’s world ambassador, though he’s also a familiar sight to Pittsburghers.

“He’s really been sort of an Oakland icon," she said. "We have scarves on him during the winter to support some of the local teams and some of the holidays.”

During his bath this week, Dippy is sporting a pink scarf in honor of last weekend’s Race for the Cure. The scarves and hats, Kish said, are furbished by the museum.

“Vigilante scarving is discouraged because he’s fragile; he’s a fiberglass statue,” she said. “However, we have a schedule that works with our conservator and (facilities guys), and they get a cherry picker and go put them up.”

Vehicle and pedestrian traffic along Forbes Avenue will not be impacted by the work.