A puzzling item of hollow painted papier-mâché, apparently a replica of a fossil and purportedly made about 1837, was acquired by the then Royal Scottish Museum in 1966 from the Free Church of Scotland College, Edinburgh, presumably from the latter’s natural sciences teaching collection. It resembles a fossil reptile vertebra or chunk of plant root, but the original specimen and identification remain unknown. The replica does not appear to be a cast from a mould. The inherent limitations and potentials of the technique used, apparently combining three-dimensional modelling and accentuated paintwork, raise the possibility that it was made for Professor John Fleming by his wife Melville Christie as a teaching aid for his lectures at King’s College, Aberdeen, or the Free Church College. The use of papier-mâché and paper to make replicas of fossils is briefly discussed.
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