Animal Afterlives: Photography, Dioramas, and Forgetting that Taxidermy is Dead

Written by Jack Ashby, Assistant Director of the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge.

A key aspect of taxidermy is that it permits the viewer to forget the animal is dead – something that is rather hard to miss when considering skeletons, specimens preserved in fluid, or insects with a pin stuck through them. Allowing ourselves to be tricked into thinking we are looking at a living, breathing – albeit very still – creature is surely one of the reasons that museum visitors so often ask, “Is it real?” when encountering taxidermy on display.

Eventually, it is the stillness that breaks the illusion, along with the obvious realisation that, no, it simply isn’t possible for a live tiger/antelope/walrus to be sat there behind glass in an urban building.

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Meet The Committee – Laura Soul

Name

Laura Soul

What is your role on the NatSCA committee?

I am new to the committee, so I am helping out wherever I am useful, which to start off with has been assisting with planning training and our approach to diversity and inclusion.

Job Title and Institution

I’m the Manager of National Learning Programmes and Partnerships at the Natural History Museum, London.

Twitter Username

@soul_sci

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Creating the River Otter Beaver

Written by Jazmine Miles Long, Ethical Taxidermist, Artist, Educator and Natural History Restorer, https://www.jazminemileslong.com, Twitter: @TaxidermyLondon; Instagram: @Jazmine_miles_long

Jazmine with the River Otter Beaver in process

In April 2019 Holly Morgenroth (Collections Officer at The Royal Albert Memorial Museum) gave me a call to say she had acquired a dead beaver that was in good condition for taxidermy. This was significant because this beaver was part of the River Otter Beaver Trial. All deceased beavers should now be sent to the Zoological Society of London for medical autopsies, which means they are usually not in good enough condition for taxidermy after the procedure. This particular beaver, originally from a population of beavers in Scotland, had been introduced to the River Otter in April 2019 to expand the gene pool of the population. Sadly she was found dead – it is possible she drowned in salt water as there were no visible injuries from conflict or a road traffic accident. Devon Wildlife Trust decided she did not need a post mortem and very kindly handed her over to Holly at the museum. Holly jumped at the opportunity and expertly packed her into a large plastic tub and placed her in the museum’s chest freezer and got to work obtaining funding to have her processed into taxidermy and a full skeleton.

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A Very Important Beaver

Written by Holly Morgenroth, Collections Officer / Natural Sciences Curator, RAMM.

A New Acquisition for RAMM

This blog post tells the story of a new and very important acquisition for the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) in Exeter. I grew up in a small Devon village called Otterton and spent many happy hours wandering the banks of the River Otter observing the rich wildlife it had to offer. So when in 2013 news broke that a family of beavers (a species extinct in the wild in Britain for over 400 years) had made the river their home I watched with great interest.

Their arrival divided opinions. The Government planned to remove them from the river. But the beavers captured the hearts of the public and Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) saw a unique opportunity for research. The beavers became part of a five year scientific trial run by DWT to assess their impact on local geography, ecology and people. The results of the trial were overwhelmingly positive.

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NatSCA Digital Digest – November

Compiled by Glenn Roadley, NatSCA Committee Member, Curator of Natural Science at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Welcome to the November edition of NatSCA Digital Digest.

A monthly blog series featuring the latest on where to go, what to see and do in the natural history sector including jobs, exhibitions, conferences and training opportunities. We are really keen to hear more about museum re-openings, exhibition launches, virtual conferences and webinars, and new and interesting online content. If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

Sector News

SPNHC / BHL / NatSCA Conference 2022

Next summer will see the return of the physical NatSCA Conference – a triple whammy partnership with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Abstract submission opens November 12th, so keep an eye on the conference site if you’ve got a great idea or project to share with the community.

GCG Virtual Winter Seminar

The Geological Curators Group are delighted to announce that the call for speakers for the Virtual Winter Seminar event is now open. In this unprecedented 18 months, GCG has seen a wonderful increase in engagement from international members, and with this seminar, they would like to celebrate this. GCG are looking for submissions for talks of around 10-15 minutes sharing innovations in, relationships with, and stories from, geological collections around the world. These can be surrounding the topic of Covid and how your organisation coped, or anything else you would like to share!

Please e-mail abstracts to events@geocurator.org. The closing date for submissions is November 5th at 5p.m. BST. The maximum word count should be 250 words plus one image. 

Registration will open shortly with tickets at £5 with the AGM following the seminar and a fun event to end the day. 

More details will land soon at https://www.geocurator.org/agm2021.

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