The removal of mounted skeletons from the Fossil Halls entered a new phase recently. The company tasked with conserving and remounting many of the skeletons for the new Deep Time exhibit packed up and hauled away the first of several truck-loads of specimens. Arriving with a large crew, many wooden crates and lots of patience, they spent about a week in the Eocene and Pleistocene exhibits, dismantling mammal skeletons and carefully preparing the bones for travel.
Before taking the skeletons apart, the crew looked them over carefully for damaged bones and made necessary repairs. Next, they tagged every bone with information about which specimen it came from and where on the mount it belonged (3rd rib on the left side, for example). Only then did they remove the bones, one by one in some cases or as whole limb units in others, nestling them into foam-lined shipping crates.
The largest and most challenging skeleton taken down was the Irish Elk, which has been on display at the Smithsonian since 1872. The antlers are huge and heavy, and the skull to which they are attached is relatively delicate. To minimize the risk of damage to the skull when the wires supporting the antlers were cut, the antlers were strapped to a foam-covered, wooden frame that also cradled the skull. A strong lift held the frame in place and, once the wires were cut and the skull was detached from the mount, carefully lowered it to the floor. After that, dismantling and crating up the rest of the skeleton was "routine."
Next week, our Allosaurus will become the first of our dinosaurs to be dismantled in preparation for remounting. Stay tuned for photos.