Henry on the outside

Henry’s skin was originally coated with beeswax, said taxidermist and sculptor Paul Rhymer, who is leading the restoration. The wax coating was, in 1959, an innovative way to protect the skin from the exposure to rapid changes in temperature and humidity near the museum’s entrance. It did its job wonderfully, Rhymer said. This is the most extensive facelift Henry has had since he got a new coat of wax in the 1980s.

Henry's tusks, which weigh 90 pounds each, were replaced with fiberglass replicas in the 1970s to reduce stress on the mount.

Henry on the inside

Henry’s two-ton hide is hollow, attached to a shell made of papier-mâché and aluminum screening and held together with wooden ribs. Assembly was completed from inside by a man who got out through a door in the belly — an area that Rhymer’s team repaired this week. According to museum legend, that person left a letter and bottle of whiskey in one of the legs.

Wax

Hide

Papier-

mâché

Aluminum

screen

Wooden rib

What is happening to his habitat

Henry’s pedestal, last rebuilt in 1999, is being expanded to include multimedia and an information desk. Model maker Natalie Gallelli will re-sculpt the “ground” he stands on using foam covered with a polymer concrete. Openings for a mini-diorama, a video screen and backlit graphic panels will be cut into the marble sides of the five-foot-tall base.

 

Information

booth

Previous

New

What is happening to Henry

Cleaning and patching a massive hide is a laborious process that will probably take all week. Here’s how it’s done:

“Tickling”

First, Henry has to be carefully dusted. While one person very lightly “tickles” the skin with a feather duster, a second vacuums the dust from the air with a shop vac.

Repairing

Two types of wax, melted in an electric skillet and colored by wildlife painter Jennifer O’Cualain, are used to fill cracks and make other repairs.

Texturizing

Wax is shiny; elephants are not. So Rhymer’s crew uses wire brushes and sculpting tools to add texture to the wax that is similar to elephant hide.

Painting

The last step is a very light coat of paint with wax, applied by just touching a bristled brush to Henry’s skin.

 

Henry on the outside

Henry on the inside

Henry’s skin was originally coated with beeswax, said taxidermist and sculptor Paul Rhymer, who is leading the restoration. The wax coating was, in 1959, an innovative way to protect the skin from the exposure to rapid changes in temperature and humidity near the museum’s entrance. It did its job wonderfully, Rhymer said. This is the most extensive facelift Henry has had since he got a new coat of wax in the 1980s.

Henry’s two-ton hide is hollow, attached to a shell made of papier-mâché and aluminum screening and held together with wooden ribs. Assembly was completed from inside by a man who got out through a door in the belly — an area that Rhymer’s team repaired this week. According to museum legend, that person left a letter and bottle of whiskey in one of the legs.

Wax

Hide

Papier-mâché

Aluminum screen

Wooden rib

Henry's tusks, which weigh 90 pounds each, were replaced with fiberglass replicas in the 1970s to reduce stress on the mount.

Masking tape

flags a crack

for repair.

Henry on the outside

New platform

What is happening to his habitat

Henry’s pedestal, last rebuilt in 1999, is being changed to include multimedia and an information desk. Model maker Natalie Gallelli will re-sculpt the “ground” he stands on using foam covered with a polymer concrete. Openings for a mini-diorama, a video screen and backlit graphic panels will be cut into the marble sides of the five-foot-tall base.

 

Info booth

Previous

New

What is happening to Henry

Cleaning and patching a massive hide is a laborious process that will probably take all week. Here’s how it’s done:

Texturizing

Wax is shiny; elephants are not. So Rhymer’s crew uses wire brushes and sculpting tools to add texture to the wax that is similar to elephant hide.

Painting

The last step is a very light coat of paint with wax, applied by just touching a bristled brush to Henry’s skin.

 

Repairing

Two types of wax, melted in an electric skillet and colored by wildlife painter Jennifer O’Cualain, are used to fill cracks and make other repairs.

“Tickling”

First, Henry has to be carefully dusted. While one person very lightly “tickles” the skin with a feather duster, a second vacuums the dust from the air with a shop vac.

Henry on the outside

Henry on the inside

Henry’s skin was originally coated with beeswax, said taxidermist and sculptor Paul Rhymer, who is leading the restoration. The wax coating was, in 1959, an innovative way to protect the skin from the exposure to rapid changes in temperature and humidity near the museum’s entrance. It did its job wonderfully, Rhymer said. This is the most extensive facelift Henry has had since he got a new coat of wax in the 1980s.

Henry’s two-ton hide is hollow, attached to a shell made of papier-mâché and aluminum screening and held together with wooden ribs. Assembly was completed from inside by a man who got out through a door in the belly — an area that Rhymer’s team repaired this week. According to museum legend, that person left a letter and bottle of whiskey in one of the legs.

Wax

Hide

Papier-

mâché

Aluminum

screen

Wooden rib

Henry's tusks, which weigh 90 pounds each, were replaced with fiberglass replicas in the 1970s to reduce stress on the mount.

Masking tape

flags a crack

for repair.

Remnants of

old habitat

New platform

What is happening to his habitat

Henry’s pedestal, last rebuilt in 1999, is being changed to include multimedia and an information desk. Model maker Natalie Gallelli will re-sculpt the “ground” he stands on using foam covered with a polymer concrete. Openings for a mini-diorama, a video screen and backlit graphic panels will be cut into the marble sides of the five-foot-tall base.

 

Information

booth

Previous

New

What is happening to Henry

Cleaning and patching a massive hide is a laborious process that will probably take all week. Here’s how it’s done:

Texturizing

Wax is shiny; elephants are not. So Rhymer’s crew uses wire brushes and sculpting tools to add texture to the wax that is similar to elephant hide.

Painting

The last step is a very light coat of paint with wax, applied by just touching a bristled brush to Henry’s skin.

 

Repairing

Two types of wax, melted in an electric skillet and colored by wildlife painter Jennifer O’Cualain, are used to fill cracks and make other repairs.

“Tickling”

First, Henry has to be carefully dusted. While one person very lightly “tickles” the skin with a feather duster, a second vacuums the dust from the air with a shop vac.

SOURCE: Paul Rhymer of Rhymer Studio, model maker Natalie Gallelli and project manager Charles Noble of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.