Exhibiting Signs of Life

In the Exhibits department of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (http://www.snomnh.ou.edu/) in Norman, Oklahoma, there is a huge easel built just for the occasion from steel struts. It is about 12 feet tall and equally wide, rolls on a wheeled wooden base, is accompanied by a ladder, and supports a very large painting of a very extinct camel called Megatylopus (latin for “very big tylopus”, I’m guessing).

This will be, when completed, photographed and enlarged double into a wall mural, onto which will be mounted a set of fossilized left frong leg bones, with scapula attached. At 50% size, the original painting impresses. At 200%, it will be a jaw dropper. That was one big camel.

My job is to recreate that beast and a little bit of the Miocene-era Oklahoma it walked around in. The exhibit is called, “Collecting Oklahoma”, and will be a display of the Museum’s finer pieces, all from Oklahoma’s rich past. There are going to be three of these big puppies in the show: the Megatylopus, an Elasmosaurus (a huge sea-going plesiasaur type of reptile), and a giant crinoid with a ten-foot stem. All will be exhibited life-size in all their glory. Even at half-size, that Elasmosaurus painting is going to be big–around 15′ long. I’ll need every inch of that easel.

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