In Brief: Natural History Museums' Taxidermy Art

By Norman Chan

The holidays are a perfect time to visit a natural history museum.

On one of the recent Still Untitled podcasts we recorded while Jamie and Adam were on tour, Adam talked about how he spent some of his time off in New York City, reuniting with friends and trekking to his favorite spots in the city. He mentioned going to one of his favorite places, New York's Natural History Museum, and enjoying the famous taxidermy animal diorama displays there (much like Holden Caulfield). Taxidermy museum displays are fascinating, both educational tools and as works of art. Earlier this month, NPR ran an interesting story about the artist who painted those huge murals that serve as the background for the ANHM's dioramas, and the museum has a great video series about the setup and restoration of these iconic exhibits. Even if you can't make it to New York, local natural history museums and science centers often have these kinds of displays. And I highly recommend reading the book Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying Weirdly Reassuring Story about Looking at People Looking at Animals in America--it's full of beautifully-told stories about Americans' often strained relationship with nature and our earnest conservation efforts. One chapter, read aloud by the author in a 99% Invisible podcast, is about famed conservationist William Temple Hornaday, who actually started his career hunting endangered animals for the purposes of taxidermy.