Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Wooly mammoths find new home at research center

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Their old home is gone, and they've been on a whirlwind tour, but Cincinnati's famous wooly mammoths have now settled into their permanent home in Queensgate.

The family of four fiberglass woolly mammoths - two adults and two children - now stand in front of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History & Science's new Geier Collections and Research Center at Gest and West 5th streets.

"They certainly had quite a tour,'' said museum spokesman Rodger Pille, of the 1,000-pound pachyderms.

Once they were a landmark along Gilbert Avenue near Eden Park, just past the Greyhound bus station standing for all to see in front of the old Museum of Natural History.

Now, that site is rubble, recently cleared to make way for the relocation of WCPO-TV. The museum itself had long since relocated to the Museum Center at Union Terminal.

In recent months, the mammoths were on display at Fountain Square, the Cincinnati Zoo, Taste of Cincinnati, Kings Island, Covington's MainStrasse Village and Yeatman's Cove before settling in at the Geier collections facility site.

They should stay there for quite a while.

"As long as we have the collections center there. That's our plan,'' Mr. Pille said.

When the history museum moved to the Museum Center in 1990, the mammoths remained as the old building became the museum's collection facility. They went on tour when the history museum acquired a larger building for its collections facility.

"We realized we had a good opportunity to have a little fun" Mr. Pille said of the tour.

It was a chance to spread the history museum image by taking the mammoths to the people, he said.

"They're our only moveable exhibit."

The response from the public was "great," Mr. Pille said. For many it was the first chance to see the mammoths up close instead of just glancing at them when they drove by on Gilbert.

In October 2002, the museum swapped buildings with the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. The purchase and upgrading of the Gest Street site was a $8 million project.

The male bull and female cow mammoths were built by artist Neal Deaton in 1980 and became part of the history museum's Ice Age exhibit.

E-mail bweathers@enquirer.com

Got an idea? This periodic Metro feature revisits past newsmakers and local landmarks. If you have a candidate for this feature, call William A. Weathers at 768-8390, or e-mail bweathers@enquirer.com

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