LONDON (Reuters) - The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton visited Britain's Natural History Museum on Tuesday ahead of a nationwide educational tour by its best-known exhibit, Dippy the diplodocus.
For 40 years, the skeleton cast, 4.25 meters (14 ft) high and 21 meters long, has been the first sight to greet museum visitors as they pass through the main entrance on London's Cromwell Road.
The 292-bone cast was presented to the museum by Scottish-born American industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1905, but did not make the move into the entrance hall until 1979.
Dippy's last day on show in London will be Jan. 4 next year and conservators will then spend 12 months preparing a delicate plaster-of-Paris cast for its journey.
In all, the huge skeleton will visit eight different locations around Britain, ending in the eastern English city of Norwich in 2020.
"We wanted Dippy to visit unusual locations so he can draw in people who may not traditionally visit a museum," said Museum Director Sir Michael Dixon.
"Making iconic items accessible to as many people as possible is at the heart of what museums give to the nation, so we have ensured that Dippy will still be free to view at all tour venues," he added in a statement.
Diplodocus was first described as a new type of dinosaur in 1878 by Professor Othniel C. Marsh at Yale University. The herbivore species lived sometime between 156 and 145 million years ago and belongs to a group called sauropods, meaning 'lizard feet'.
The museum plans to fill the dinosaur-sized gap in its entrance hall with a 100-year-old skeleton of a blue whale.
Reporting by Stephen Addison; editing by Costas Pitas