Archie: A Mammoth of a Tale

The author with Archie

Many statues are scattered throughout the grounds of UNL’s campus. One in particular that is hard to miss, is Archie— the guardian of Morrill Hall. Archie, if you haven’t seen him, is a mammoth of a statue (pun intended) and always has a cheery disposition with his massive foot outstretched for people to high-five.

Archie is short for Archidiskidon imperator maibeni, his scientific name. He arrived in Lincoln on Oct 21, 1998. The sculpture came on a flatbed truck from Cody, Wyoming on October 19 a few days before it was installed in front of Morrill Hall on the 22nd. It also made a stop in North Platte due to its size, and also because the stop was planned to be near the site where the Archie fossil was unearthed. Visitors were able to see the sculpture during a “Friends of the University of Nebraska State Museum” event at the Stockholm Motel during its scheduled stop.

Fred Hoppe was the creator of this beloved statue. Hoppe is an award winning sculptor who specializes in bronze artwork. Other works of his include a life-size dog team for the Iditarod Museum in Alaska and our own “Husker Legacy” statue of football players. Archie was an idea of “Friends of the University of Nebraska State Museum” and they raised $100,000 in funds for him to come to fruition. The group sold 100 smaller versions of the sculpture in order to raise the money for the bronze.

Hoppe’s creation began in 1992, when he started working on the sculpture in a barn that resided outside his rural Malcolm home. He did his research, studying ancient cave paintings and then pictures of frozen mammoth carcasses to create a statue that was as authentic as possible. The skeleton of Archie was reproduced in wood, Styrofoam created the muscle, and clay finished the figure, acting as its skin.

Four months it took Hoppe to create this life-size bronze statue at the Caleco Found in Cody, Wyoming, Archie’s fossil is 25 feet, seven inches from tusk to tail and when he roamed the plains 30,000 years ago, he was 15 tons. The statue is 15 feet, 6 inches high; weighs 5,000 pounds, and the 86 sections it took to cast the mold amounts to 3 tons of bronze.

On campus, there is a tradition of high fiving Archie’s outstretched foot whenever you pass, or before an exam. This foot is to bring good luck to whomever high – fives it, or so I’ve been told. I was informed of this one day when my friend Meranda Wellman, an editor for tourtheten.com, and I were passing Archie in the spring of 2010. I gave her an odd look when she stopped and high-fived Archie’s foot. Amusingly enough, she gave me an odd look for not knowing about the tradition. It was that day I first gingerly high-fived the mammoth, a bit daunted by the size of the statue and not sure I wanted to. It’s been a fun little tradition since that day. Even as a Senior English major at UNL, she high-fives him whenever she passes him, whether she has an exam or not. I recently asked her where she had heard of this tradition. She said, “When I first transferred to UNL, I was taking on a tour of campus and the tour guide pointed out Archie and explained the tradition of high-fiving Archie for good luck on exams”.

Michelle Byerly, Graduate student at Saint Paul’s School of Theology, who earned her BA in English and Psychology at UNL also discussed her dealings with Archie. “I have heard it [the tradition], and not really sure where I heard it from…maybe from TV or maybe from other people during my first year at UNL”. Its origins are a mystery, but it’s a tradition that has been passed down through the years, and some people continue to do it. Meranda has seen a few aside from herself keep up this tradition, as have I.  Michelle told me she wasn’t one of the ones that high-fived Archie in passing, or at all. She had never seen anyone do it, even though she knew that it happened.

Discovering how long Archie has been on this campus, I asked Michelle and Meranda what their fondest/first memory of Archie was. Michelle had a fond memory as a child, “I remember when I was in elementary school in Lincoln, we would come over to Morrill Hall for field trips which were always fun”. As for Meranda, she told me “I first met him when my parents brought me to Morrill Hall for a visit when I was little. It was around the time he first showed up”. When Archie is brought up, the most common statement I’ve heard is “I remember visiting him when I was little”.

Archie is Meranda’s favorite aspect of campus and I love him too. Granted, some days he looks like he’s about to walk right off of his platform and tour campus. Many people love Archie, and he brings in much traffic to the Museum. Twice a year, he gets a bath to keep his bronze shiny and healthy. He is well taken care of, and I’m sure he appreciates it.

Whether its luck for a UNL game, to pass a test, or just because, Archie will always welcome a high-five from a passerby. Come visit him the next time you’re in town, he loves to meet new people while he guards the steps of Morrill Hall.

University of Nebraska State Museum
Morrill Hall, south of 14th and Vine Street
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588
General Info: (402) 472-2642
Reservations: (402) 472-6302
Adults $5 & $8 (museum & planetarium); Children, $3 & $5.50 (museum & planetarium)
Mon-Sat, 9:30am-4:30pm; Thurs, 9:30am-8pm; Sun, 1:30pm-4:30pm
 

About: Brandi Bengtson

I am a senior at UNL with a major in English and a minor in Communication Studies. Writing is my passion and I have novels that are works in progress that I will one day publish. Outside of writing, I love finding new places to shop, eat, or study. I love UNL and the friends I’ve made.