Somewhere in the gulf between paleontology and sanity....
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
A seemingly normal latex mold... BUT WAIT!!!
It has not gone unnoticed that this blog has not been updated for over a month, so I figured I'd jump back into it with a real doozy. As I was evaluating the mold and cast collection down in the basement, Dr. Wann Langston advised me to keep a lookout for a, well, a historically interesting mold. I found it today, while looking for something else. From one angle, it looks like an ordinary, but very old, latex mold of an oreodont skull in a block of matrix. Which it is, mostly. But sometimes it looks like a hot water bottle, though from most angles, it looks like a leathery old, uh, leather purse. And why? Because it has (look close, on the right side!) a ZIPPER! Casting material was poured in from the pour spout on the top, and when the plaster set, the mold was unzipped, allowing the cast to be pulled free of the mold. Wowee.
I mean, holy crow, have you ever seen the likes? I sure haven't. This mold was made by (the very clever indeed) Jim Quinn, when he was Jack Wilson's first grad student here at UT. Quinn finished his Ph.D. in 1954, well after Langston recalls meeting him in 1933 at the Field Museum (where he was a preparator), and even after he published this paper in Fieldiana. I wouldn't be too keen on trying to get one more cast out of this mold, but I'm definitely going to look for some already existing ones in the cabinets downstairs.
Matthew Brown works in a slightly obscure corner of paleontology doing work called fossil preparation. Fossil preparators spend most of their time actually doing what most people think all paleontologists do all day. He has worked for the University of Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, the National Park Service at Petrified Forest, and currently the University of Texas at Austin. Now residing in Swinging South Austin, he recently lived off the grid in a dome in the middle of the Painted Desert, where his cat Jake was eaten by a bobcat, coyote, mountain lion, or phytosaur. Gustav, Jake's replacement, fared pretty well, and stayed behind in Arizona to guard the house.