When choosing a career path, we often focus on what we know and enjoy. But in exploring the familiar, we can also miss opportunities that are unique, challenging and rewarding — paths we may have never imagined. Julia Hulme entered the Loyalist Animation program as a mature student, convinced that a career in the futuristic world of cartoons and video games was her destiny. It was not until the final months of her studies that she discovered an exciting career path that would lead her deep into prehistoric times.
“One of my professors suggested I approach Research Casting International (RCI) for a work placement opportunity,” Julia explains. “That placement resulted in a job offer and I am now the 3D Specialist at RCI. I never imagined that, when asked what I do for a living, my response would be: ‘I build dinosaurs.’”
RCI is one of the largest museum technical service providers in the world. Founded by Peter May in 1987, the 50,000-square-foot facility is nestled unobtrusively in Quinte West. The understated exterior provides no hint of the wonders within. The fossil-friendly facility is both temperature and humidity controlled, and can accommodate dinosaur, mammal and reptile restoration, casting and mounting commissions of any size and complexity.
Peter has assembled a diverse team of artisans, craftspeople and project management staff, all committed to restoring and preserving rare, precious and valuable paleontological artifacts and specimens. Some of the current projects underway include a multimillion dollar contract with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. refurbishing fossil skeletons, and the preparation of 12 dioramas of marine fossils and mountings for the world-class Shanghai Natural History Museum.
As 3D Specialist, Julia not only handles everything three-dimensional — scanning, carving and printing — she also reconstructs bones when parts are missing, constructs full skeletons, and is responsible for much of the digital artwork.
“The Animation program definitely helped me to develop the skills to execute my ideas effectively,” Julia says. “We learned a wide range of software that I had never seen or even heard of, and I’ve continued to learn more at RCI. In my job it’s necessary to learn new things quickly. My solid foundation in 3D from Loyalist has kept me on top of this.
“These opportunities are absolutely incredible,” she adds. “I love what I do and the people I work with. Each day I wake up wondering what type of creature waits for me at work. I’ve seen awesome and snarly, and some that resulted in nightmares, but more often sweet dreams! It’s humbling, knowing a fossil is 65 million years old, and that I am the one standing there, touching it. I try never to take for granted the amazing things that are a part of my day.”
RCI is one of only four businesses in the world capable of producing museum-quality exhibits. Peter May received the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award at the annual conference of the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations in September, 2014. In October, he was named Business Person of the Year at the Annual Quinte Business Achievement Awards Gala.
“Research Casting has a very good working relationship with Loyalist College,” Peter notes. “The Animation program is training students in the latest software for 3D rendering and animation. We have hired students who have graduated from Animation and other arts programs, and we have been able to immediately put their skills to work.
“Having Loyalist so close has proven to be a fantastic opportunity for us,” he adds. “We hope to work even more closely in the coming years.”