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News & Press: Exhibit Development

Magnificent Mammoth Exhibit

Monday, January 26, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Maegan Wilberg
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The Huntington Columbian Mammoth was found August 8, 1988 at the top of Huntington Canyon in The Manti La-Sal National Forest. A local construction business was rebuilding the dam at Huntington Reservoir, and Chris Nielson, the backhoe operator, dug up a tusk. He was unsure of what it was exactly, but knew it was not a tree or something else. He decided to call state archaeologists and the forest service, who eventually came up eventually and found the mammoth skeleton which was 90% complete. What a fantastic discovery! The Mammoth skeleton was wrapped with newspaper wetted down with burlap dipped in plaster to preserve the fragile mammoth bones. The Mammoth was age 60 when he died, after being trapped in a mud bog about 10,500 years ago. The lake bed acted like a freezer for this 15 foot giant, preserving him for all the years in between.

We at the Museum of the San Rafael wanted to capture the memory of the mammoth discovery that is in the minds of those who were there. To achieve this goal, we did the following:

1.    Apply for a grant to help fund our project.

2.    Once the funding came into play, we wanted a mural of what the Mammoth would have looked like before his death.

3.    After the Mural would be finished, we wanted the exhibit to show the excavation process.

We applied for a grant with the Utah Division of Arts and Museum, which we received. This grant helped us to continue with our dream to recreate a scene so that others could share in this memory. We were able to begin plans to start the project and get an idea of what we actually wanted. Cliff Oviatt painted a mural of what the Mammoth may have looked like. Through his interpretation and wonderful talent, he has given us a wonderful, artistic mural.

Once the mural was finished, we needed to make a plan of what we wanted to do next to achieve our third and final goal. We decided to get a Mammoth skull replicated to show how it would have looked in 1988 when they dug it up. We brainstormed some more, and rather than having it look like it did when the archaeologists were digging it up, we decided to get a Mammoth skull and tusks replicated. Looking at our funds left over from building a stage and from the mural, we didn't have the sufficient funds for the cost of a Mammoth skull and tusks. I began to worry that this project that we had talked about to be this wonderful asset was beginning to fall apart due to our lack of funds. We talked about having just the tusks. Because lets face it the tusks themselves are very impressive! But, deep down, we all wanted a mammoth skull and tusks but how were we going to raise money to be able to afford both?

We began to run out of time for new ideas. We had to do something, so I contacted the Museum Board members to discuss what the next action should be. Cliff Oviatt, who had painted our wonderful mural, volunteered to carve a Mammoth Skull and tusks out of Styrofoam. When he said Styrofoam, I thought of the little squares we get in packages, and I hoped that it would work. The day it came to reality was when Cliff called me at work and asked me to come outside of the museum. I walked out to see a giant piece of Styrofoam 3 ft tall and about 5 ft wide. Once I saw the block of Styrofoam, I knew I had nothing to worry about!  Cliff was off to work carving carefully, sketching and studying the Mammoth and what the skull would look like. Months later Cliff had finished the Mammoth skull and tusks and brought them to the museum to finish the exhibit.

This Mammoth exhibit is our newest at the Museum of the San Rafael. We couldn't have done it without our grant from the state, which gave us the sufficient funds to make our ideas and dreams come true. In addition to the grant, the countless hours of our staff, board members and volunteers helped make this dream a reality. We learned that with exhibit projects and moving things around to prepare for the projects, that delegation is a proper way to get help and get your projects done on time and in an organized way. We learned that our community is a big support to us, with local businesses who donated time, supplies, and support to us to help us succeed in our projects.

The opening for the Mammoth Exhibit was Friday January 16, 2015 at 6:30pm. The Mammoth Exhibit is located at the Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale Utah. Come see the Mammoth Exhibit!


Maegan Wilberg is the  Director of the Museum of the San Rafael and Pioneer Museum in Castle Dale, Utah.


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