Edmonton·Video

Royal Alberta Museum ice age exhibit a 'swan song' for longtime exhibit builder

As the Royal Alberta Museum prepares to open a new chapter with its downtown location, Peter Milot is getting ready to start a new chapter in his own life.

Peter Milot was enticed by one final project before his retirement

‘This is just model making on a grander scale’

4 years ago
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Peter Milot builds skeletons to be featured in the new Royal Alberta Museum’s Ice Age exhibit 1:14

As the Royal Alberta Museum prepares to open up a new chapter with its new downtown location, Peter Milot is getting ready to start a new chapter in his own life.

The paleontology exhibit specialist has worked for the museum for 35 years. His final project, Edmonton in the Ice Age, will be his self-described "swan song."

"I was planning on retiring several years ago, but I was enticed by the director and asked if I would take charge of the project," Milot told CBC Wednesday. "Of course I said yes — I couldn't resist."

His latest project, three years in the making, consists of 11 casts from the ice age, including a mammoth, a mastodon, two horses and a giant ground sloth.

Milot was tasked with building seven new casts, in addition to four others he built previously. But he certainly wasn't complaining.

Is Peter Milot working so hard to get to retirement, or because he loves his work so much? We'll never know. (Sam Martin/CBC)

"I loved building models when I was young, so this is just model-making on a grander scale," he said. "I'm sort of living out a childhood dream."

The two horses on display don't seem quite as interesting as a mammoth, at first. But Milot said their stories are worth telling — especially in Alberta.

"We're displaying the horses because of the importance they played in the fossil record here," he said. "In many ways, Alberta was horse heaven prior to the last ice age."

Nearly nine-tenths of the horse cast is actually made from fossilized bones. The rest comes from the bones of a modern-day horse that Milot said is nearly identical to its ice-age predecessor.

This horse was constructed from a combination of fossils found and a modern-day horse, which Milot said is nearly identical to the horses before the ice age. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Milot's excitement for the new display, expected to be completed in early 2018, is obvious.

"I can't wait to see the new gallery," he said. "It's great to be able to tell the story."

With files from Sam Martin

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