The Colossal Stranger: A Cultural History of Diplodocus carnegii, 1902-1913

Ilja Nieuwland

    Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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    The way in which “the” dinosaur was established as the cultural point of reference in continental Europe is surprisingly recent and turbulent. It largely came about as a consequence of the donations made by the Scottish-American tycoon Andrew Carnegie to European potentates. Between 1905 and 1913, seven plaster copies of his 27-meter-long _Diplodocus carnegii_ were mounted in as many natural history museums on the European mainland. An eighth specimen found its way to Argentina.
    Carnegie’s overarching ambition became the establishment of a world-wide system of legal arbitration to prevent international conflict. _Diplodocus_ was part of that ambition, and the casts’ donation served as one of the tools Carnegie used to organize a working relationship with foreign heads of state.
    The original context of Carnegie’s donations eroded as the Europeans appropriated the dinosaurs both in a scientific and cultural sense. _Diplodocus_’ fame turned it into a suitable substrate for addressing various issues. For instance, both the London and Paris casts were exploited to deliver political commentary. But its most far-reaching use took place in Germany, where scientists attempted to gain public support for scientific reorganization using Carnegie’s plaster dinosaur.
    As Carnegie’s ambition of peace arbitration tragically failed in August of 1914. But its by-product, the eight casts of _Diplodocus carnegii_, was established as _the_ dinosaur for generations of European museum visitors. Seen as such, these copies are true historical _originals_, uniting various cultural, scientific and political world views.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • van Berkel, Klaas, Supervisor
    • van Lunteren, F.H. (Frans), Supervisor, External person
    Award date11-May-2017
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Print ISBNs978-90-367-9728-3
    Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-9727-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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