A mammoth moment for The Box

Mammoth Moment

27 February 2020

It was another ‘huge’ moment for The Box today as our fully assembled woolly mammoth was revealed for the first time.

The life-sized, as yet un-named female was inspired by a mammoth tooth in our collections, discovered at Yealm Bridge Cavern on the nearby Kitley Estate. Fossils show that woolly mammoths were roaming around Plymouth 35,000 years ago, alongside bears, cave lions, hyenas and woolly rhinos.

The mammoth and tooth will be displayed together in our new natural history gallery, along with 3,000 other specimens including insects, taxidermy, minerals and skeletons.

Jan Freedman, Curator of Natural History said:

Our mammoth is the ideal ‘wow’ object for The Box's new natural history gallery. For thousands of years, mammoths were a very successful species, but they became extinct around 4,000 years ago as temperatures rose and humans hunted for meat, bones and fur. As a symbol of something our planet has lost, she highlights both the brilliance and fragility of nature.

The mammoth has been constructed by Blue Rhino Studio, based in Minnesota, USA. The company specialises in interpretive design and artistic fabrication for visitor centres and museums around the world.

Like the majority of all large-scale sculptures created at Blue Rhino, the fabrication of the mammoth began with the production of a detailed clay model that captured her mass, pose, gesture and scale. This painstaking process enabled the team to scrutinise and make adjustments to the design before she was sculpted at full-scale. She's been created from fire retardant architectural foam and sealed with a fibreglass resin.

A clay maquette of a woolly mammoth

One of the most challenging aspects was replicating her fur. Blue Rhino Studio had to carefully consider its colour, texture and direction and then applied it by hand from the feet up to create an amazingly realistic finish.

The mammoth was then disassembled into three sections and prepped for shipping. She arrived at Southampton docks earlier this month and was then carefully transported to her new home in Plymouth.

Tim Quady, Owner at Blue Rhino Studio said:

Creating a large-scale beast like this is always a challenge but we thrive on pushing ourselves in new directions and love working on these sort of projects. We're really pleased that she arrived safely after her long journey from Minnesota, and hope The Box's visitors enjoy seeing her as much as we've enjoyed creating her.

A replica sculpture of a woolly mammoth

Visitors will be able to see the mammoth in situ when The Box opens to the public from Saturday 16 May.

Plymouth City Council Leader, Tudor Evans OBE said:

This really is a mammoth moment and I think she looks brilliant! Woolly mammoths are one of the most iconic creatures from the Ice Age and this is going to be a great way for visitors to The Box to come face to face with the type of animal that lived here many thousands of years ago.

A man adding fur to a large-scale replica of a woolly mammoth

Plymouth City Council Shadow Leader, Ian Bowyer said:

It’s fascinating to think these sort of beasts once roamed around the area where we all live today. It’s been great to see the mammoth in its fully assembled state for the first time and I’m sure visitors to The Box are going to be just as impressed.