This Saturday, July 7th, a birthday party for a ham will be held. The 116-year-old hock will be the at the center of ham-related festivities, receiving a cake and even a present — a 3D printed portrait of itself.
It’s not very often that a ham celebrates its 116th birthday. So, to mark the world’s oldest edible cured ham’s special day, the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield, Virginia, will hold a celebration in its honor this Saturday.
At the party, there will be many ham-related activities. Children will make birthday cards for the ham and the town’s library will offer story time and coloring books.
And, what’s a birthday party without a birthday cake? Museum Director Jennifer England explains: “We always sing hammy birthday before we cut the cake.”
But, most excitingly perhaps is the birthday present for the ham – a 3D printed portrait of itself. Recently, professor Bernard Means, from the Virginia Commonwealth University, and several of his students removed the ham from its case to 3D scan it.
This is the second time the ham has been scanned and printed since 2015. By using this technology, Means will be able to check up on the ham in later years to determine whether or not it has deteriorated or shrunk.
The 3D print is also in honor of the ham’s birthday and gives visitors and well-wishers the chance to touch the replica without damaging the actual ham.
A Little History of the Ham
The ham is one of Smithfield’s most prized artifacts. It was owned by P.D. Gwaltney Jr. who expanded the pork business in Smithfield. The ham was his prized possession but also served as a useful marketing tool.
That is to say, Gwaltney rediscovered the ham after somehow misplacing it for twenty years, and decided to put a leash and collar on it and use it to show how skilled his family company was at curing meat.
The “pet” ham is still going strong today and is removed from its glass once a year for cleaning. England explains that the ham has a very strong smell, adding: “It’s really intense. You have to make sure what you’re wearing that day goes right into the wash when you get home.”
The ham has been in the care of the museum since the early 1990’s. England adds: “It’s the item that draws most of our visitors and gets people the most excited.”
If you won’t be visiting Smithfield anytime soon, don’t worry, you can still interact with the ham in some surprising ways. Firstly, it’s possible to 3D print your own thanks to the 3D scans of it being available to the public.
Or, you can even check the ham out on social media. Either watch it via a “ham cam” at any time or follow it out on Twitter. If you do live near Smithfield and want to celebrate the ham’s birthday, visit the museum’s website for more information and times.
Source: Suffolk News Herald