This past Monday morning (Oct. 3), the giraffe and okapi were safely back behind glass after spending a couple weeks released from ‘captivity’ in the museum’s Great Mammal Hall for the first time in nearly a century. It took a half dozen staff from HMNH and the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), which owns the specimens, to gently lift the giraffe back into its case.
For the past few weeks, two artists and sculptors from the Chase Studio in Missouri have been working in the galleries along with renowned exhibition fabricator, Terry Chase, to repair some of the museum’s most beloved taxidermy specimens.
After decades, and in some cases, nearly a century, of non-climate controlled conditions, many of the museum’s iconic mammals had been showing wear-and-tear. Restoration work has now been completed on the 15-foot giraffe, as well as the rhino, hippo, elephant, eland, and gorillas in the Africa gallery, giving them long-overdue repairs ranging from facelifts – repairing cracked skin – to more in-depth makeovers – restoring entire specimens.
Financial support for specimen restoration was provided by a generous gift to the MCZ by Mr. Robert G. Goelet ’45. “Many of our specimens on public display have been part of Harvard’s collections for close to half of the University’s 375-year history; they are scientifically important, and nearly all are irreplaceable. We’re proud to provide an opportunity for students and visitors to see such rare and invaluable specimens—and others in this ‘brick ark’—looking new again,” says James Hanken, MCZ’s director and Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology.