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Conway takes a weekend spin

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

After 17 years at the Ohio Historical Society, Conway the Mastodon moved. As in, a team of workers rotated the 10-foot-tall remains of the fossilized pachyderm.

Conway is on display in the main room of the OHS. He was initially installed so that visitors would descend a staircase and get an optimal view of the skeleton in the process. Media Relations chief Kim Schuette said that after moving the entrance of the museum to better suit handicapped visitors, guests would enter to the sight of Conway’s rear-end.

Bob Glotzhober, the senior curator of natural history, said that rotating the remains wasn’t as simple as it seems.

“It’s a very delicate process,” he said.

So delicate in fact that the process took four days of work from 10 professionals to pull off. The museum had additional volunteers to videotape the procedure and keep the crowd away from the work (the museum stayed open throughout).

The process came down to five steps. First, workers had to remove the tusks. Although realistic looking, the tusks attached to the skull are actually fiberglass replicas, because the bony body isn’t strong enough to support the weight of the originals.

Following the tusks, the entire head was removed, followed by the legs. The last part of the body workers had to move was the rib cage and backbone, which were supported by a platform while the supporting legs were removed. The platform was moved to its new location and the rest of the body was reattached.

Conway, who got his name from the man who discovered him, was unearthed in 1887. The remains traveled as display to carnivals before making stops at a number of museums and settling at the OHS in 1993.

Although the process of moving the remains was a mammoth one, Conway is not actually a Woolly Mammoth. He is a mastodon, another elephantine mammal that roamed the Great Lakes region. Although woolly are like their mammoth brethren, Glotzhober said that mastodons are actually closer relatives to modern-day elephants than they were to mammoths. They were also much more populous in Ohio, with an estimated three mastodons present for every mammoth.

Although both are now extinct, Columbus residents can now get a glimpse of Conway, a remaining monument to the mastodon species. And not just his behind.

Nathan Kane contributed to this story

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