By John Wible
William J. Holland, Director of the Carnegie Museum, announced a new publication series, the Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum, by stating … “To the fame of Pittsburgh as the seat of some of the most Cyclopean industries of the age is being added reputation as a seat of learning. Under the cloud of smoke, which attests the industry of her inhabitants, and is the sign of her material prosperity, live men who find their pleasure in exploring the wonders of the material universe, and the record of their discoveries and researches will be from year to year be found.”
The very first number of this new series was published in July 1901. It announced the discovery of a new species of dinosaur, Diplodocus carnegii, which staff paleontologist John Bell Hatcher named for the museum’s founder, Andrew Carnegie. Hatcher’s 63-page text included a bone-by-bone description of two skeletons collected in 1899 and 1900 from the same quarry in Sheep Creek, Wyoming. Given the number of vertebrae (backbones), most of the text is about them!
Hatcher restored the skeleton in a pose “the animal must have frequently assumed when feeding upon the soft and succulent plants that grew in abundance along the shores of the shallow waters about and in which these Dinosaurs lived” (p. 57).
This is the pose for Dippy that most Pittsburghers will remember in the old dinosaur hall.
In fact, many museum goers around the world know the same pose because Andrew Carnegie donated casts of Diplodocus carnegii to the major museums in Europe, Mexico, and Argentina. The Pittsburgh mount changed in 2007 to bring it up-to-date with current scientific knowledge. To see the updated pose, you will have to come visit the museum.
John Wible, PhD, is the curator of the Section of Mammals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and editor of Annals of Carnegie Museum. John’s research is focused on the tree of life of mammals, understanding the evolutionary relationships between living and extinct taxa, and how the mammalian fauna on Earth got to be the way it is today. He uses his expertise on the anatomy of living mammals to reconstruct the lifeways of extinct mammals. John lives with his wife and two sons in a house full of cats and rabbits in Ross Township. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.