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Schreckengost Sculptures Find a New Home at Natural History Museum

For more than five decades, visitors to the Cleveland Zoo’selephant enclosure were greeted by massive sculptures of extinct pachyderms.

Those once familiar sculptures are seeing new life at an institution across town.

Created by Cleveland artist Viktor Schreckengost in 1955, the panels featuring a mammoth, mastodon and their calves, were removed during the zoo’s 2008 remake of the elephant pens and put into storage.

That is until the Cleveland Museum of Natural History offered to put them back on display as part of their $150 million expansion and renovation project.

In a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, the museum opens the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears Garden which features the 32-ton sculptures and native-plant landscaping. 

Director Evalyn Gates says the iconic Schreckengost sculptures capture much of the museum’s mission.

“They represent the science that we do, the mammoths, the mastodons – how we are looking at the past so that we can plan for the future -  but they also represent the art of not only a Cleveland artist, but someone who was on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Art for many decades.  And they represent Ohio’s history because these incredible beasts once roamed across the state of Ohio.”

The unveiling this week of the Schreckengost sculptures is part of the first phase of the natural history museum’s three phase expansion expected to be completed in time for its 2020 centennial.

Jeff St. Clair is the midday host for Ideastream Public Media.