Dec 18, 2011

Collecting Taxidermy

From what I hear, collecting taxidermy is extremely addictive. A friend of mine had a collection that got so out of control, she said, that her home started to resemble a natural history museum. In order to slow down her accumulation she imposed a rule for herself-that she could, from then on, only collect albino animals!

Taxidermy is popular with many subcultures and has been around for quite along time. Because of this, the resources available for those interested in collecting taxidermy, or witnessing taxidermy collections are quite vast. 

During the Victorian era, taxidermy gained an unprecedented popularity. It was used frequently in great interior design, and a symbol of wealth. Victorian naturalists did not have binoculars or cameras. Often times their only method for identifying a species was to shoot it and examine it later. By the 18th century almost every town had it's only tannery and taxidermy set up. Customers could bring in animals and hides to literally have them "stuffed" with cloths and rags. By the 20th century taxidermists were considered artists-bringing life to the dead by posing and creating realistic settings to display their pieces in. 

Field Natural History Museum

Two interesting and well known taxidermists are Martha Maxwell and Walter Potter. Martha Maxwell is said to be the 1st woman naturalist who killed and stuffed and collected her specimens. She created natural environments to display her findings in. During her career she discovered a number of new species including (that which is named for her) The Maxwell Owl. Walter Potter, the most outstanding anthropomorphic taxidermist, spent the greater part of his career recreating famous nursery rhymes with taxidermied animals. Including "The Death And Burial Of Cockrobin," the highest grossing piece in his collection-which was broken up and sold in 2003. 

With taxidermy having a long history and passionate following there are great opportunity's to witness truly artistic and mind blowing pieces. There are many natural history museums all over the world, filled with dioramas, tableaus and menageries, waiting patiently for your patronage. Martha Stewart even recently revealed her taxidermy collection! You can find taxidermy in movies and t.v. shows (like Fox's sitcom "Scrubs" where the main character has a 'pet' taxidermeid dog). Taxidermy is on display and for sale in some wonderful and hip boutiques like San Francisco's Paxton Gate (Where I have been known to drop way too much money on plants I've never seen before). And of course, the Internet is an every flowing stream of taxidermy in all it's glory. One wonderful website being "Minnesota Association of Rouge Taxidermists," is dedicated to showcasing the work of modern taxidermy artists from Minnesota (props to my homeland!) and beyond. And also enjoy the humorous site "Crappy Taxidermy."

There are so many books about collecting taxidermy, beautiful, beautiful books. It's a collection all in itself. I found a good many of them on Amazon including  "Windows On Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of The American Museum of Natural History,"  and "Walter Potter and His Museum of Curious Taxidermy," and "The History of Taxidermy: Art, Science, and Bad Taste," plus the highly acclaimed "The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and The Cultures of Longing." Also check out "The Authentic Animal: The Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy," and "Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy."

Stay on after the jump for some alternative and vegetarian taxidermy examples! 

Just for fun, here is some animal free taxidermy available to you from our friends at Etsy!

Mounted Tentacle Sculpture

Mounted Felt Fox

Mounted Badger Sculpture

These are all great, but I much prefer the real thing.

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