Casting the Earlham College giant beaver

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I mentioned last week that we were getting ready to start a large project at VMNH, and that’s now underway. Ray and I are going to spend the next three weeks at the Joseph Moore Museum at Earlham College, producing molds and casts of the giant beaver Castoroides ohioensis.

We’ve picked this specimen for several reasons. Castoroides is a big, charismatic animal that generates a lot of interest. It’s also a species that’s known from Virginia, but only from a few isolated bones. We would love to be able to exhibit some giant beavers at VMNH, but to do that we need access to a reasonably complete specimen for molding. In this case we’re actually going to be molding a master cast copy that was originally produced more than 20 years ago. Once the new casts are completed we’ll be returning to Martinsville where we’ll build the armature to support the mounted skeletons.

For VMNH there’s more to this than just getting a cool exhibit specimen. This is also an outreach and teaching opportunity for us. We’ll be training museum students from Earlham College in molding and casting techniques, as well as a bit of skeletal anatomy.

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We’re hoping to do this entire skeleton in just 3 weeks, which is a pretty tight schedule. Even though we only started today, we’ve already started making the clay basins for pouring the first molds. Here’s the articulated right hand:

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The right humerus:

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The first four left ribs:

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I’ll be doing a post every day or two describing our progress.

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