The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History partnered with the community in a crowdfunding effort to display the Bristle Mammoth remains, which were discovered by farmer James Bristle last October.
Bristle discovered the mammoth remains when he was installing a drainage pipe in his soybean field in Chelsea. At the time of the discovery, Daniel Fisher, director of University’s Museum of Paleontology and a paleontology professor, said this discovery was among the top 10 most significant mammoth discoveries in Michigan’s recorded history.
Amy Harris, director of the Museum of National History, said the Bristle Mammoth is an incredible specimen and a unique addition to the museum’s collection, as mammoths are rarely found in Michigan.
“The Bristle Mammoth created a lot of excitement in the community,” Harris said. “There have been relatively few mammoths found in Michigan.”
Harris said Bristle decided to donate the remains — rather than sell them for a profit — because he wanted the mammoth to be viewed by as many people as possible. He was additionally encouraged by the reaction of his grandson.
“We know that he was inspired by his five year-old grandson’s awe and the reaction from the community to donate the mammoth to (the University),” Harris said. “He felt that all people should get a chance to see it.”
On Sunday, the museum hosted an alumni challenge, in which alumni offered to match up to $1,000 in donations from other alumni. The challenge was promoted through social media.
The online fundraising campaign runs until May 1, with a goal of raising $12,000. As of Sunday, the campaign raised $5,850. All donors will be invited to attend a preview reception and meet the researchers who are studying the mammoth.
On May 1, there will be a final fundraising event and celebration at Connor O’Neill’s Traditional Irish Pub, at which 15 percent of food sales will be donated to the mammoth exhibit.
The online campaign, donations from a portion of museum store sales and donations from Giving Blue Day, a campus wide fundraising event held in December, have all contributed to the creation of the exhibit. The initial construction on the exhibition has already started using the funds raised last year.
It will be another several months before the Bristle Mammoth will be on display, as the bones need to dry and researchers need to do their initial study on the mammoth. The researchers, led by Fisher, are trying to understand more about the daily life and death of the mammoth. According to their initial study, the Bristle Mammoth was likely butchered by humans, with its stored in a pond.
Fisher and his research team at the Museum of Paleontology have been studying the bones and working to prepare the remains for the opening of the exhibit. Fisher said the Bristle Mammoth is a one of a kind hybrid that has the potential to deliver information about the animal’s death and othe human understanding of the mammoth as a species.
“Several things we noticed during the original excavation suggest strongly that there was some involvement by humans who were in this part of the world at the time,” Fisher said.
The researchers estimate that the Bristle Mammoth lived for 45 years approximately 11,700 to 15,000 years ago and most likely was a hybrid between a woolly mammoth and a Columbian mammoth.
According to Fisher, this data is useful in learning more about the remains as there is a lack of knowledge about hybrids such as Bristle.
“This raises the possibility that we find out about this animal will provide new insights into human behavior and subsistence as it relates to mammoths,” Fisher said.
For her UROP research project, LSA sophomore Kathryn Zoller studied the history of U-M museums, specifically the role of the University as a depository for the Michigan Geological Survey and other collections. Zoller said the Bristle Mammoth will further improve the reputation of the Museum of Natural History as a depository for a large variety of exhibits.
“In addition to research functions of the individual specimens, donations of valuable collections or important pieces improves the overall quality of the collections and the prestige of the University,” Zoller said.
The exhibit will include interactive 3-D digital models of mammoth bones, casts of tusks that can be touched by visitors and will include programs for children. Currently, the Museum of Natural History holds the skeletons of two mastodons, which will be featured in the mammoth exhibit.
“The Bristle Mammoth display will be a great addition to the display of two mastodon skeletons already in the museum,” Zoller said. “Although the exhibit has some information on the differences between mammoth, mastodon, and elephant teeth, the Bristle Mammoth will help visitors see other differences in the skeleton.”