Darwin Day 2013


Tonight is Roanoke College’s Darwin Day celebration. This is the 3rd straight year VMNH has participated by setting up a fossil display. For the first time this year we’re using the traveling display cases designed and built by Mike Morriss.

We’ve had a steady stream of students, faculty and other visitors passing by for the last few hours, to see 29 casts of Carmel Church specimens, plus in-progress models of Calippus and “Buttercup”.



For the first time, we’re also raffling off casts of three Carmel Church specimens to raise funds for the Paleontology Department. So far we’ve raised about $80, and we’ll be drawing for the winners in about 10 minutes.

Thanks to Roanoke College and especially DorothyBelle Poli for once again hosting such a successful Darwin Day celebration.

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4 Responses to Darwin Day 2013

  1. Doug says:

    ahh, the temporary displays in action. Sounds like it’s going well.

    from the last post:
    “We’ll mold and cast this so we can make additional copies quickly. We want to put Buttercup on exhibit in several different locations, so we need more than just the master model.”

    Yes, that does make sense.

    ” We’re also considering offering copies for sale, to produce a small revenue stream for the Paleo department. ”

    I don’t get why more museums don’t do this (probably because of the whole non-profit thing). The gift shop at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County sells a few casts of Fairmead fossils. I bought a couple for myself and even one for the Ray Alf Museum. I know I’ll certainly try selling casts in my museum gift shop. Or more likely, selling casts of what i find to help fund the effort. Hopefully things would progress up as i find better material. Of course i would need to know how to mold and cast to be able to do any of that. Any idea where i could learn that?

  2. altondooley says:

    A lot of museums do sell casts, usually through an intermediary under contract. The main reason it isn’t done more is probably lack of resources. Molding and casting materials are expensive, and producing everything (especially an inventory to sustain sales) requires a large input of fairly skilled labor. It also requires a considerable investment in lab and storage space. In our case, we’ve started looking at this because both Ray and I can do all the steps in the process (although Ray is considerably better at it than I am), and it corresponds with unrelated goals we have concerning future exhibits. We’ve managed the start-up costs well, but even though the museum has invested in this project Brett and I have put in a considerable amount of our own money to get things started.

    Some community college art programs may have classes in mold making. I am largely self-taught, a learned by reading articles on molding in scale modeling magazines. I’ve also done some blog posts on the process a few years ago, including some videos.

  3. Doug says:

    yeah i saw your videos. Still probably one of my best sources. And if i can get a hold of materials, i’ll be sure to practice on invertebrates first. Any advice on where i can find molding and casting supplies?

  4. altondooley says:

    You can buy small quantities of the same stuff I used in the videos from Micromark.com. They have “starter kits” that include silicone, resin, mold release, cups, clay, etc. We don’t use their materials in the lab anymore, because it’s more expensive per unit volume (the stuff we use now is cheaper if you buy large amounts), and because the silicone has a lower tear strength so it’s not as durable. On the plus side, you don’t have to orders gallons of material at one time, and they’re easy to mix because they’re 1X1 by volume (the stuff we use is mixed by weight). I still use it on occasion at home when I’m making parts for model airplanes.

    A complete starter kit will run around $100. That will give you enough silicone to make, say, 2-4 molds of something the size of a Carcharocles tooth, and about the same number of casts.

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