Students walking through the first floor of the John C. Hodges Library at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville may be surprised to see the skeleton of a “centaur” on display. The hoax is intended to draw attention to the mythological and poetic dimensions of science and history, and to remind students not to believe everything they see or read. “The Centaur Excavations at Volos” is staged like an authentic exhibition, depicting a “centaur” burial and a group of related ceramics.
This work of archaeological fiction went on permanent display in the Jack E. Reese Galleria of the Hodges Library in May 1994. The centaur was originally constructed in 1980 by Dr. William Willers, a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. After several showings at museums and galleries in the Midwest, the exhibit was put in storage. In 1993, after a fund-raising campaign organized by professors Beauvais Lyons from the UT Department of Art and Neil Greenberg from the UT Department of Zoology, the display was acquired by the University of Tennessee.
Before installing the exhibit on campus, Professor Lyons chaired an installation committee consisting of faculty from the departments of art, psychology, classics, archaeology, zoology, theatre, geology and the library. The committee decided on the design of the showcase and drafted the text which accompanies the display. The showcase also includes a simulated marble base and faux wood panels which were painted by Professor Bob Cothran, Professor and Scene Designer from the UT Theatre Department.
The project was funded by the UT Cultural Affairs Board, the Office of Student Affairs, University Studies, the Student Exhibit Committee, the Hokes Archives and private donations.