On August 20, 1981, Rod Marlatt, Marlin Derby, and Jayna (Niswander) Dozier embarked on a day’s adventure of catfishing and artifact hunting on the Skunk River in Washington County, Iowa. Days like that were not unusual for this trio. In fact, they were probably supposed to be in class!
So begins the story of the discovery of an un-fossilized lower jaw of a woolly mammoth now displayed at Gilbertson Nature Center in Elgin, Iowa. Rod Marlatt, director of Fayette County Conservation, and his family generously donated the jaw to Gilbertson for display. RC&D worked carefully with Marlatt and his staff to tell the history of the Driftless Area through the eyes of a woolly mammoth while showcasing this unusual specimen.
Informational panels were carefully designed to fit within the display case procured for protecting the fragile jaw. A large panel on the back of the case features original artwork of the Driftless landscape during the Ice Age. Custom informational panels appear as rocks in a flowing river, telling the story of the mammoth chronologically from tens of thousands of years ago to present day. Additional panels feature original artwork and explain how these “cold-weather elephants” thrived in an icy world. A custom-drawn, life-size mammoth head rests atop the display case and life-size (7.5-foot) replica woolly mammoth tusks extend out and over the heads of visitors. The mammoth jaw rests on a platform, visible from three angles thanks to the open sides of the display case.
RC&D staff provided Fayette County Conservation with content research and writing, illustration, design, fabrication coordination, and installation support.