SIOUX CITY -- At the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, Sgt. Charles Floyd is alive and well, and shows no sign of the ailment that led to his death 214 years ago in Sioux City.
Instead of flesh and bones, this Floyd is made of silicone, and his pneumatic movements are controlled by a computer.
The interpretive center unveils its newest animatronic exhibit, “Sgt. Charles Floyd: A Young Man of Much Merit,” at 1 p.m. Saturday. It features a robotic Floyd, sitting on a crate near the river that today bears his name, telling visitors about his experience with the expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
Marcia Poole, the center's director, said it's unfortunate that Floyd is mostly known for his death and burial in what today is Sioux City on Aug. 20, 1804. Poole and Mike McCormick, the center's facilities manager, wanted to breathe some life into the legacy of the explorer and non-commissioned officer, who passed away at age 21.
"We know where he was buried, the Floyd Monument -- but what about him? He was this young man, obviously of great, great ability and strength," Poole said.
"In the writings of their group, he was a really well-respected guy," McCormick said. "I mean, these people put a lot of faith and trust that this young man could do that job. And sadly he died."
The Floyd automaton was built by Ohio-based LifeFormations, which has built robotic and diorama figures exhibited in places as diverse as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Answers in Genesis – Ark Encounter & Creation Museum, Sony Theme Park and DreamWorks Theme Park, among others.
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The firm also created four other robotic figures displayed at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center -- President Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned the expedition, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Seaman, the Newfoundland dog that accompanied the Corps of Discovery.
It's hard to say what the real Charles Floyd looked like.
Unlike the other figures depicted at the Center -- say, Thomas Jefferson -- there are few images of Floyd during his short lifetime. So the center had to take some artistic liberties to create his animatronic figure, which sports a light stubble on his face and sightly dirty fingers.
"(LifeFormations) provided us with a number of faces that they have available," McCormick said. The center then selected a face that they felt was suitable to represent Floyd.
The figure cost around $60,000. To help reduce expenses -- and put their own touches on the exhibit -- the diorama scenery was put together by McCormick.
A local resident, Matt Rixner, supplied Floyd's voice. Rixner said he worked to develop a dialect from Floyd's home state of Kentucky, and tried to make "as authentic as possible."
Rixner said he hopes to take his daughters to see Floyd when the exhibit opens Saturday.
"It's going to be fun, it's probably going to be a little weird, but it's going to be fun," he said.
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