On Dippy the Diplodocus and childhood obsessions

You aren’t to know this but, much like myself, my mum was also a mature student. When my siblings and I were growing up mum was studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing at the very institution where I’m now studying Communication Management and Public Relations. My point? Well, basically, what I’m saying is, when we were growing up dad spent an awful lot of time trying to get the four kids out of the house.

When you have four kids most activities become expensive, no matter how cheap they may seem at first. This meant that we spent a lot of time when we were growing up hanging out at the Ulster Museum. Museums are great for families, they’re free, and there’s always something interesting going on.

Every time dad would take us to the museum, he’d tell us about two things. One, did you know there’s a giant blue whale at the Natural History Museum in London? Two, there’s also a giant diplodocus called Dippy!

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Maybe it’s because we all grew up in the 1990’s when Jurassic Park was still the best film ever, but we were all obsessed with dinosaurs. We still are to be honest, when we visited New York as grown adults three of us decided it was a great idea to do a photoshoot of us pretending to be the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. All the pictures on this blog post are from trips to see the dinosaurs with my siblings. So Dippy always stuck with me. I was determined to see him at some point.

The first time I saw Dippy I was 18. I went to London with mum to visit my sister and celebrate my birthday with them both. And I insisted on going to see Dippy. He didn’t disappoint. He is just as cool and big and everything I thought he’d be when I was 5 years old and dad was telling me about him. He became the one thing I was going to see every time I was in the city. Saw him again at 21 with mum and always took my friends to see him when we were over for gigs or West End shows.

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So, you can imagine my complete and utter devastation when the Natural History Museum announced that they were going to take Dippy down. How dare they? Did they not know that he was my favourite thing about visiting London? And they were going to replace him with that blue whale dad loved to go on about? I mean, the blue whale is cool and everything, but he’s no Dippy!

Then came the announcement. Dippy was going on tour! And he was going to come to Belfast! Obviously, I was going to visit him.

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Going through the doors of the building we spent so much of our childhood in hearing about Dippy to see Dippy felt a bit odd. Up you go, to the fourth floor, and there he is, my buddy, Dippy looking just as good as he did in London.

By now I’m sure everyone is wondering what my original point was. After spending the day with Dippy (and my sister) taking pictures and having a great time. I tweeted about it. Twitter at this point is probably my biggest vice, it’s been distracting me from things I should probably be paying more attention to since January 2009 (that would be the first time I was at university, Twitter is a really good distraction from assignments).

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So, there’s me, tweeting about seeing Dippy and how much I love dinosaurs, add a couple of photos, post and don’t think about it again. A few days later, the Ulster Museum, the Natural History Museum in London, and Dippy himself have all replied to me. Seems silly, but having an account run by the Natural History Museum for a dinosaur exoskeleton reply to me on Twitter might actually be the social media highlight of my year.

We as public relations professionals certainly understand the importance of social media as a communication tool and for building our network. Until that point, I didn’t realise how important it might be to interact with our publics. A couple of replies on any day is just five minutes work for the person running the Twitter account, but there’s no way to tell what the feeling is on the other side of the interaction.

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I know Dippy is just an exhibit in a museum, but the person tweeting for him doesn’t know that Dippy has a history with our family. He’s in the days spent in the museum so mum can get her head showered, he’s in the trips over to visit the big sister, he’s in the gigs I went to with my mates in London. Social media allows us to build our network and interact with our publics more than any other form of communication. Recognition that there is another human being on the other side of the interaction helps us to build a more connected network and probably makes our publics care a little more too.

Annie-Rose Mulholland is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – bananiepie / Twitter – @bananiepie / LinkedIn- Annie-Rose Mulholland.