Thursday, June 27, 2019

Indiana State Museum Cardboard Engineering Experience: Part 3

Stephanie Nold Thomas was so kind to us. She and Gail Brown provided us with everything we needed to build including excellent double and triple-ply cardboard we would integrate into the recycled materials we had brought. Our idea to recreate an extinct pre-historic animal out of cardboard was received enthusiastically. One catch. Could the animal be based on an extinct species from the museum's collection? Our answer? Absolutely! Bethany suggested we consider a saber tooth lion, a giant ground sloth or perhaps a mammoth or a mastodon? Clark and I mulled it over. A mastodon? Indiana is a mastodon state!

There are over 300 mastodon excavation sites in Indiana! Farmers will plow their fields or heavy equipment operators will dig into the soil and then "clank!" Giant bones from these distant relatives of elephants emerge from the soil. As a child I remember going to the Walkerton Public Library in search of books on dinosaurs. The small library had an excellent collection of fossilized mastodon teeth, vertebrae, skull and leg fragments. My imagination and desire to learn more about ancient life was fired up every time I looked at those specimens!

The mastodon challenge was on. We needed a lot of cardboard. We were going into uncharted territory. We had never built something this large before. We knew we would need a sturdy framework to support the exterior of the sculpture. Our sculpture method of connecting sticks of cardboard to a reinforced skeletal framework would work just as well for a mastodon as it would for an apatosaur. We just needed to begin. Over Winter Break, I transformed the neck piece of the apatosaur into a mastodon spinal column. Hips, head, shoulders and leg sections would come next. We had a primary structure to begin attaching, connecting and weaving cardboard sticks that would become Fred Jr. Off and on, over the course of three months, whenever we could put in time, we fleshed our life size mastodon sculpture out.

We estimate Fred Jr. the cardboard mastodon weighs about 190 lbs. 
Clark reinforces new cardboard to Fred Jr's back leg.


Fred Jr. is 9.5 feet tall and nearly 20 feet long with his tusks!

Fred Jr. with two jubilant sculptors!
More on Fred Jr's creative process soon!