- Associated Press - Saturday, January 8, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Museum visitors will no longer be greeted by a giant, 10,000-year-old skeletal rear end when they walk in. Instead, as a museum spokeswoman puts it, they’ll see “a little more majestic view.”

Workers on Saturday finished a three-day job of moving a roughly 1-ton mastodon skeleton several feet to a more flattering position at the Ohio Historical Center.

Kim Schuette, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Historical Society, which runs the museum, said visitors will now get a side view of the huge elephantlike beast when they enter. The mastodon’s backside had been greeting museum-goers who came through a lower-level entry. That door later became the main entrance to provide better access for the disabled.

A crew of six to eight people on Thursday began moving the mastodon by removing the front and hind legs from the 10-foot-tall skeleton, which is supported by a steel bracket. The head and tusks followed.

The museum’s senior curator of natural history, Bob Glotzhober, said the movers used a piece of equipment similar to a car jack to help hoist and rotate the mastodon’s midsection. Once that’s done, he said, “it’s essentially a very simple process at that point.”

But trying to get a mastodon’s body to look good from all angles? That proved trickier, he said.

“We turned it. Then looked at it. Then turned it again,” Glotzhober said. “That took a little while.”

Once they found a flattering position, the workers started reassembling its parts.

The mastodon is named Conway after Newton S. Conway, who unearthed it on a farm in western Ohio in 1887.

Horse-drawn carriages once carted the skeleton around to county fairs in Ohio. The skeleton eventually was donated to the Ohio State University, which loaned it to the Historical Society in 1970 when the Historical Center opened.

The last time the skeleton was moved was in 1993 for the opening of the center’s natural history exhibit. Glotzhober said workers used eight photographs from that move to help scoot the animal bones. The society now has hundreds of photos from this week’s process.

“It’ll be a much easier job the next time people have to do it,” Glotzhober said. “No one has ever written a book on how to assemble or dissemble a mastodon.”

He said workers tried to leave as many of the bones connected as they could while they moved the artifact because some of the skeleton had been mounted together in 1894.

Glotzhober said the crew had to try multiple times to reattach the legs, which he estimated to be more than 200 pounds each. Other than that, he said, the move went smoothly.

“We never caused any damage,” he said, “but there were times when it wouldn’t have taken much.”

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