Nova Scotia

Ed Longard's tiny, 3D models brought Nova Scotia museum exhibits to life

The former chief curator of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax, who died this month, is being remembered as an exceptionally creative man.

Former chief curator of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History died Sept. 4 at the age of 93

You can still see many of the exhibits Ed Longard designed on display at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, most of which were built first as tiny, three-dimensional models and then re-created in life-sized proportions. (CBC News)

The former chief curator of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax is being remembered as an exceptionally creative man who co-ordinated the construction of miniature museum models in the days before computer-aided design.

Ed Longard died at home on Sept. 4. He was 93 years old.

You can still see many of the exhibits he designed on display at the museum, most of which were built first as tiny, three-dimensional models and then re-created in life-sized proportions.

In the era before computers, Longard's little dioramas allowed engineers and designers to picture the exhibits before they were built, so they could make changes. (CBC News)

John Kemp, manager of the museum and one of the last people Longard hired before retiring in 1983, said he was "always creating, always inventing."

Longard used materials like glue, house paint, sticks, rocks, Styrofoam, fabric, and cardboard — often from cereal boxes — to create the models, Kemp said. "Anything that we could get our hands on, that's what was used."

Ed Longard died at home on Sept. 4 at 93. (Ron Merrick)

In the era before computers, he said, the little dioramas allowed engineers and designers to picture the exhibits before they were built, so they could make changes. 

"They were very detailed," Kemp said, and perfectly to scale, so staff could say, "I like this, but I'd like to move that animal a foot over ... or I'd like to add another bird."

Soup can lamps

Kemp said Longard was way ahead of his time when it came to recycling and reusing.

He remembered lamp shades made out of tomato soup cans in the back cupboards at the museum. "Nothing went to waste, nothing got thrown out, and that all rubbed off on all of us."

Longard and his team used materials like glue, house paint, sticks, rocks, Styrofoam, fabric, and cardboard - often from cereal boxes - to create the miniature models. (CBC News)

Frankencar

Longard even found a way to combine the parts from two Volkswagens into one — functional — vehicle. "He wouldn't build it unless he could use it," Kemp said. "If it was built, it was going to run."

"He loved a challenge, and I don't think Ed was the type of person to say, 'We can't do this.'" Kemp said he even had a train set at home that lowered from the ceiling.

Last visit

Before his stint at the museum, Longard was a school teacher who would "get the kids to think and not just look at the obvious," Kemp said. "That's a true indication of a very intelligent and open person."

Kemp said it had been more than thirty years since he last saw Longard, but that all changed on Aug. 4, when Longard visited the museum one last time with his grandchildren. "It was pretty special," he said.

The models were very detailed, Kemp said, and perfectly to scale. (CBC News)

With files from CBC's Information Morning