Last week, I had a date with a celebrity of sorts... His name is Archie. Most people in Lincoln know Archie, college kids most of all. I saw him for the first time nearly 15 years ago but it was from afar and not up close and personal, but this time... I parked my car and walked toward Morrill Hall on the University of Nebraska campus. There he stood. Tall (15'7") , dark, bronze skin gleaming in the sun, head raised high as he trumpeted to the skies...all 5 tons of him.

Oh, did I forget to explain?

Archie is the "mascot" and logo of the Hall of Elephants at Nebraska's State Museum in Morrill Hall on the University of Nebraska Lincoln campus. He's a composite skeleton made from fossils found in 1922 100 feet from where his statue now stands before the museum (an area which is now a parking lot). Archie went on exhibition inside the museum in 1925. Also housed inside the museum as a life-sized asbestos statue, he was replaced by a bronze figure cast by artist Fred Hoppe at the Caleco Foundry in Cody, Wyoming, and was brought to Lincoln by flatbed truck in October 1998. Because of the sculpture's size, the truck could only drive during the day and the trip took a week. The statue was placed in front of the museum at the entrance where Archie can greet visitors with his upraised trunk and curved tusks.

The name "Archie" is short for Archidiskidon imperator maibeni, or imperial mammoth, cousin to the modern day elephant. Originating in Eurasia, mammoths crossed the Bering Straits and came to North America about 30,000 years ago. They are the typical animal people generally think of as being hunted by cave men. Looking at Archie's skeleton as well as his statue, and thinking of the relatively small size of humans in those days (less than 5"), I can only imagine the bravely it must have taken to get close enough to one of those creatures to throw a flint-headed spear at it or pummel it with rocks.

Archie is considered the largest fossilized skeleton of its type in the world. from tusk to tail, he's 25'7". Exhibited along with other fossilized elephantine species, the fossil Archie shares the Hall with other prehistoric creatures who roamed Nebraska before, during and after the Ice Ages, as well as the denizens of Jurassic Park. Across from where he stands, tusks raised high, is a wall-to-ceiling mural showing a galloping herd of mammoths being hunted by Neanderthals.

Other rooms hold exhibits showing scenes from the peaceful seas in which life began(next to last picture at bottom). A swamp from the Mesozoic era blooms with cicads, prehistoric redwoods and twelve-inch dragonflies. Gigantic trilobite and snail fossils line the floor. A pleisiosaur skeleton, so long it fills two rooms, is embedded in the floor, going under the wall and reappearing in the room next door, totaling 27 feet. A mosasaur and a bulldog tarpon, each easily 18 feet long hang from the ceiling, still encased in their cement-hard soil. In another room, an allosaurus model faces its fossilized counterpart, with a thigh bone measuring 6 feet long resting nearby in a special case. Glass cases also house dodo birds (at right), apatosaurus, stegosaurus, gigantic tree sloths, and prehistoric turtles.

The basement floor is currently featuring an exhibit of the Omaha tribe with photographs, fabrics, and pottery; there's a display of firearms and cultures from various centuries and cultures. Another room houses a gigantic rotating Double Helix, as well as a model of a a cell being attacked by the HIV virus (see below). Around the corner minerals glow in the reflection of black light.

The third floor has displays of Nebraska landscapes with indigenous animals and plant life, as well as mock-ups of archaeological digs. In the Marx Discovery Center, children can unearth fossils using brushes and small shovels, and touch and handle fossils. A mural shows student Shane Tucker (below) at the Ashland Dig.










I spent quite some time with Archie, photographing him from every angle, feeling like a paparrazza..."That's it, Archie...good, good...beautiful, baby...hold it...smile..." before strolling away to view the other exhibits.

I stayed until the call came that the museum was closing for the night. Running back to give my "date" a farewell wave, I went through the door with the rest of the crowd, pausing to take a final picture of Archie's bronze image before I got into my car.

I would swear his trunk waved slightly as I drove away.

7 comments

  1. Mary Ricksen // June 16, 2010 at 12:30 PM  

    Toni I loved this post. What a great thing it is to find the bones of this wonderful animals. I heard they found a baby mastodon and it was very well preserved. They are hoping to find DNA that is still viable to clone one. Wouldn't it be cool to see a live one!

  2. Toni V.S. // June 16, 2010 at 2:25 PM  

    That would be great, Mary, and if they could ever actually have a real "Jurassic Park" I'd be one of their first customers (providing they could prevent what happened in the movie, of course!)

  3. Mary Marvella // June 16, 2010 at 3:03 PM  

    Glad you made your date with the big guy at such a fascinating place. Love the photos and the blog. Such a good looking guy.

  4. Judy // June 16, 2010 at 3:13 PM  

    Toni, I loved the post and meeting Archie! Almost made me want to come to Nebraska to meet him. It's amazing to me what great little finds some Universities have on campus...Thanks for sharing

  5. Barbara Monajem // June 16, 2010 at 7:01 PM  

    Archie is gorgeous!

  6. Scarlet Pumpernickel // June 17, 2010 at 1:27 AM  

    Clone a mastodon? ISn't that the way Jurassic park started! Help, don't let them loose on us! Great article Toni.

  7. Joanne // June 20, 2010 at 11:07 AM  

    What an interesting post, Toni. Thanks for introducing us to Archie!