Nebraska’s Hastings Museum recently commissioned Staab Studios to sculpt a model of Xiphactinus, a more than 15-feet-long, toothy, predatory fish from the Late Cretaceous. Skeletal remains from the genus have been found in Kansas, Alabama, and Georgia, where once a prehistoric sea was situated. Paleontologists have also uncovered specimens in Europe and Australia.
The studio – which previously produced a Tylosaurus for the museum’s displays – made a great video of the welding, sculpting, and painting process. It gives a much better idea of the scope of the project – as to how much time and effort went into every detail. In viewing the process, I realized how much of museum displays and models are both science and art. Undoubtedly, the museums and their collaborators – in this case, researchers and artists – want their pieces to be as scientifically-accurate as possible. It remains, though, that some little piece of the artist will always be in the work as well.