This Week In History: Celebrating how ‘Woolly’ the famous Mammoth was made

WatchThe 'Woolly' the life-sized Mammoth sculpture has wowed guests at the Royal BC Museum for nearly half a century.

The ‘Woolly’ the life-sized Mammoth sculpture has wowed guests at the Royal BC Museum for nearly half a century.

The towering sculpture is the centrepiece of the Natural History Gallery on the second floor and he just celebrated his 42nd birthday in January.

According to the RBCM’s learning program director, Kim Gough, the museum needed an iconic showstopper when the Natural History Gallery was set to open over forty years ago.

She says that at the time, there was debate about building an Orca, but ‘Woolly’ won out.

“What they did first was to make a scale model so they could figure out the pose. Is it going to be forward-facing? side-facing? trunk up or down?” said Gough.

Artists built his body from plywood, chicken wire, foam and nine muskox hides.

“The main thing you got to think about is that beautiful woolly coat and the team from our museum suggested using muskox hide,” recalls Gough.  “The team had secured nine muskox hides from a first nations group in Ellesmere Island, and they were cut into strips. And then they were laid onto the mammoth kind of like shingles.”

Woolly’s two-metre tusks are fibreglass fossil casts and his size and appearance are based on actual fossil remains.Mammoths lived in and fed on tundra vegetation, especially grass. Fossil remains have been found on Vancouver Island and in the Peace River region of British Columbia.

The museum says the mammoth is one of the most popular spots in the museum.  Volunteers or staff are often posted at the mammoth where they show casts of a Mammoth tooth and a cross-section of a tusk.

“Our Woolly Mammoth has been a huge success. If you were to do an image search online, it would be our Woolly Mammoth that shows up in your top search results”, Gough says.

“And that’s not bad for someone in their forties.”

The Natural History Gallery remains open while the third floor is closed for modernization.

(File photo)



RELATED: This Week in History: Royal BC Museum to close several exhibits in an effort to modernize

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Brad MacLeodBrad MacLeod

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