Major work to remove asbestos from structural steel beams throughout the museum has meant careful work in advance to remove objects and specimens from display so that they remain safe and protected.
Displayed high on a wall on the entrance floor, the museum’s stunning set of Irish elk antlers, with a spread of nearly nine feet, proved to be a special moving challenge. Museum staff called in Dan DenDanto, proprietor of Whales and Nails in Seal Cove, Maine, for the task. With his specialty of suspending enormous whale skeletons for display in museum exhibits around the nation, Dan brought just the right mix of ingenuity, equipment, and meticulous care to this nerve-wracking job. Happily, we can report that all went well. The Irish elk antlers are now safely down from their 12-foot-high spot and in a large crate, ready for transport to museum collections storage.
The museum’s set of Irish elk antlers is a rarity. They were purchased in Ireland, transported to Maine, and displayed for six years in a Cape Elizabeth home. Despite their common name, the antlers did not come from an elk, nor are they exclusively Irish. The magnificent animal was a giant deer, now extinct, that stood seven feet tall at the shoulder. At the end of the last Ice Age, Irish elk ranged as far west as Ireland, as far east as Siberia and China, and as far south as North Africa. Its common name harkens to the large number of excellently preserved skeletons found in Irish peat bogs.
Before removing the antlers and their vertical mounting panel from the wall, employees of Whales and Nails carefully attach a base support, designed to become part of the storage crate.
The Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus) and the Alaskan moose subspecies (Alces alces gigas) were similar in height and weight – up to seven feet tall at the shoulders and weighing more than 1,500 pounds. An Irish elk’s antlers could reach 12 feet from tip to tip. The antler spread for an Alaskan moose is 6.6 feet and for the smaller Maine moose subspecies (Alces alces americana), 5.4 feet.
The Irish elk also lives on in popular culture. The elf king Thranduil appears with his elk in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Battle of the Five Armies. An Irish elk is also the heraldic black stag of the House Baratheon in Game of Thrones.