Did you know that during Pickett’s Charge on the afternoon of July 3, 1863, a cavalry battle raged just a few miles east of Gettysburg? Next spring, you can glimpse a portion of the action when Civil War Tails rolls out its “new old” diorama of East Cavalry Field. In the meantime, enjoy a sneak-peek as we look at the process of rehabilitating an old diorama into a new one.
Our cavalry battle, one of our oldest dioramas, has continually morphed throughout the years. Now, the cats and horses are getting a much-needed sprucing up, readying them for display in spring 2018.
Many of the cats date from the 1990s—and their grimy paws attest to the hard work they’ve done over the years, teaching people about the Civil War. Is there hope for such troopers, or are they due for retirement? Apparently, the promise of a new diorama base is incentive for a clay cat to polish his buttons, because they are working overtime to prove that they still have many years left in them!
So, what does it really take to clean up a cavalrycat? Well, a warm summer day for starters. The cats on our cavalry diorama are all made from non-hardening modeling clay. Now stiff from years of drying out, they need warm temperatures to become pliable again. As you can tell from the photo, there are quite a few cats waiting to be reunited with their arms and legs, and old cold clay just doesn’t stick to itself!
After a cat has all his limbs on again, he needs a bath. No, not with soap and water. Scraping a layer of clay from the cat works well to turn him white again. He’ll never be as squeaky-clean as a young whippersnapper cat, but at least he can make a good showing.
Our old “guys” are the ancestors of the cats on the dioramas you see in the museum, and it is exciting to give some of them a place alongside new cats on a diorama. Stay tuned as the cats make their plans, receive their marching orders, and finally mount up and move out!