Friday, March 7, 2014


Though I was a late-comer to museum visiting, as soon as I was truly exposed to world-class museums in college, namely the Carnegie system in Pittsburgh, my love of them took root inside me and has only grown exponentially since. One may think that working at a museum might change that feeling, but for me, it never did. Almost as soon as I got my first museum job, I wanted a museum tattoo. I waffled on designs, and never really committed until I was completing my graduate degree in museum studies. By this time, museums were such a part of my identity, it felt necessary to wear a symbol of that love on my skin.

I still didn’t have my design though, and it began to feel important that the tattoo to represent not just museums generally, but the Pittsburgh museums of which I am so fond. I considered a number of different ideas (a Warhol-ian shoe, for instance), but nothing felt perfect---until I thought about Diplodocus carnegii!  Dippy was the first dinosaur in Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is named for Andrew Carnegie, and casts of the Pittsburgh Dippy now sit in 10 locations throughout the world. Diplodocus has come to be an important icon at the museum, but also for Pittsburgh itself. It was decided.

On February 1, I went to Unique Ink in Greensburg, PA, with Dippy design in hand and my mom in tow (she also got a tattoo at the same time to make it more special. My Dippy is not scientifically accurate (which I know because museum work gives me easy access to world-renown paleontologists, a daily privilege I don’t take lightly), but its mine. And now I wear my heart on my sleeve….er, Diplodocus on my wrist….and proudly show the world that I’m a museum person through and through.

I should also note that my first tattoo, a butterfly on my hip which was acquired weeks after my 18th birthday in an act of teenage rebellion, years later would also come to have deeper museum meaning. For my Master’s thesis project, I observed visitors and recorded their conversations at a display of 30 drawers pulled from the butterfly collection. Now, I can’t see my butterfly tattoo without thinking fondly of that project or of my own museum experiences that I hold so dear.

Leigh M. Kish
Interim Director of Marketing
Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Want to share your own story and tattoo?
Email Beth: beth (at) redmond-jones (dot) com or Paul: info (at) orselli (dot) net.

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