1963 : Life Features MSU Museum Director

May 24, 2022 all-day

On May 24, 1963, LIFE magazine featured a profile of then-MSU Museum Director Rollin H. Baker, who was about to undertake a monumental project: reconstructing a 10-foot African elephant skeleton!

The African bush elephant came to the MSU Museum as a gift in 1962 from Jens Touborg, innovator of refrigeration compressors for Tecumseh Products. Decades ago, Touborg donated numerous skulls, skeletons, and taxidermy mounts of various mammals and reptiles, including a brown bear, musk ox, ocelot and bongo. The skeletal materials, while not on exhibit, are important resources for research and teaching.

The May 24, 1963 LIFE magazine feature can be seen here (see page 77-78).

Footprint outlines let visitors compare the size of their feet to those of the elephant, and appreciate its immense stature.

Today, the African bush elephant is a protected species, and the African Elephant Conservation Act of 1988 is in effect.

Building an elephant

Source : MSU Museum, Collections up Close: Object of the Week, May 13, 2013, still available thanks to the Internet Archive.

For more information about Rollin Baker, see Carleton J. Phillips, Robert J. Baker, and Hugh H. Genoways, “Rollin Harold Baker: 1916–2007“, Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 90, Issue 5, 15 October 2009, Pages 1265–1269, https://doi.org/10.1644/09-MAMM-O-169.1

Here is the opening paragraph: Rollin H. Baker passed away on 12 November 2007, 1 day after reaching his 91st birthday. Rollin was a living legend, famous for his pioneering research on biogeography and natural history of Mexican mammals, especially rodents, for his contributions to the understanding of Michigan mammals, and for being a mentor and friend to all young, aspiring mammalogists. Rollin Baker’s career lasted way beyond his traditional retirement, and in his final months he was still active in the Texas Society of Mammalogists and in conservation issues in Texas. Indeed, when he was 89 years old he presented a guest lecture in mammalogy for appreciative graduate students at Texas Tech University.

Leave a Reply