Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales - Museums Association

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Dippy at the National Museum Cardiff

In 2019 Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s iconic diplodocus dinosaur skeleton, embarked on a road trip around the UK. For the Welsh leg of the tour, he visited National Museum Cardiff.

The remit from the Natural History Museum was that every partner venue should use Dippy as a way to inspire visitors to engage with contemporary environmental issues and engage with an underrepresented audience.

We have a Youth Forum at each of our museums across Wales. Young people aged 14-25 are encouraged to be partners in decision making and organising activities. The forums explore the views of young people and address issues that they think are important.

Youth-led projects across the museum are part of the Hands on Heritage initiative, made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Kick the Dust grant.

Tasked with a way of making Dippy relevant to their peers, the young people chose to raise awareness and inspire positive action around the climate crisis.

It’s been really fun, working together as a team creating art to steer environmental change.

Youth forum participant

They identified the environmental impact of the fashion industry as their “big issue” because of its massive environmental cost. They decided to link this with dinosaurs by fashioning a dinosaur from waste clothing and fashion items destined for landfill.

Once the theme was identified, the group explored art within the collections that either engaged with environmental issues or used fabric and found objects, as well as working with local sculptural artist Megan Broadmeadow.

The forum decided to involve the public in making elements of the exhibit as a way of raising awareness of the issues. They developed and delivered making activities with families visiting the museum during the summer holidays.

In addition, day-long workshops were run with young people from partner organisations including Llamau and The Prince’s Trust. These workshops also focused on using fashion to raise awareness and spread positive messages.

Dippy exhibition at the National Museum Cardiff
Display created by the youth panel for the Dippy exhibition at the National Museum Cardiff Images courtesy of Amgueddfa Cymru

Young people were integral to the whole project; a young writer and activist delivered writing workshops with the group to develop the exhibition text, and illustration and design students from Cardiff Metropolitan University worked with them to develop the 2D design of the exhibition.

During the project development, Youth Climate Strikes announced a global day of action, so banner-making workshops were held for young people and families in preparation for the strike.

Participants developed new making skills, including sewing and screen printing, alongside skills in planning, team working, creating project plans, research and event planning. They have also continued their activism around climate change.

Working in this activist way also had a positive impact on the museum. The exhibition in part influenced the decision by the organisation to declare a global climate and ecological emergency, reconfirming its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.

The museum is currently working to develop a new schools programme linked to climate change and activism as a legacy of the project.