Author Topic: The taxidermy discussion thread  (Read 5604 times)

animaltoyforum

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The taxidermy discussion thread
« on: October 16, 2014, 11:43:34 AM »
I work in a museum with a large collection of taxidermy specimens. Taxidermy seems to be divisive for our visitors, eliciting two contrasting reactions, as follows:

1. Disgusting and creepy - the poor things! These visitors generally see the taxidermy specimens as 'dead animals', killed for human curiosity, and nothing more. Some visitors are even unwilling to enter the galleries.

2. Spectacular - the natural world is amazing! These visitors generally see the taxidermy specimens as an educational and scientific resource.

The funny thing is that there are animal lovers in both camps. Although I'm firmly in the second group, I'm also conflicted to a certain extent. I can understand why people react negatively, especially in response to the trophy game heads. There's no getting away from the gruesome nature of a decapitated head mounted on a wall! A similar response when faced with taxidermied juvenile animals, such as the tiger cub below.



Museum obviously don't kill animals (any more). However, our collections contain a legacy from when attitudes were different. They exist, so I think we should make the most of them. In addition to being an educational resource for those with an interest in biology, and a source of data for scientists, these collections can be used to raise awareness and promote conservation. We try to get this across in our own exhibitions and put them into a historical context. But it's impossible to completely remove that gruesome aspect.

With this in mind, I was wondering how ATF members, animal lovers that we are, feel about taxidermy. Which of the above reactions is closest to yours when you see a taxidermied animal? Overall, is taxidermy a good thing or a bad thing?
« Last Edit: September 23, 2016, 10:10:02 PM by animaltoyforum »



brontodocus

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2014, 06:35:17 PM »
We don't have that many taxidermied specimens at our university but for educational purposes they're sometimes inevitable. We use them to teach biology students in species-level identification of local fauna and most of our taxidermied mammals are small ones (rodents, shrews and the like). I'm also fine with taxidermied specimens in museums, schools and any other educational institution. Taxidermied specimens in private hand are somewhat different. While I don't get upset about it I certainly wouldn't use taxidermied animals as home decoration. Taxidermied specimens in Germany are often used to create a certain huntsman idyll, while such decoration implies that the owner feels close to nature the impression is also that of a certain kind of superiority over animals - which may be the reason why often the largest and strongest mammals and birds are preferred. :-\

Newt

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2014, 08:43:42 PM »
I'm all for well-done taxidermy. It's the next best thing to being able to see a live animal up close and personal, and in some ways is actually better - it being a bit tricky to examine a lion, say, up close.


I've done a bit of taxidermy myself, back in college when I worked in the vert collections. I would like to get back into it, and in fact have a couple of critters in the freezer waiting for some spare time. Spending that kind of intimate time with an animal is a great aid to learning and understanding its anatomy and morphology.


I too have run across people with the "How could you do that to that poor thing" reaction. I think it's usually squeamishness and not genuine moral outrage. Usually when someone would express that sort of reaction, I would point out that many more individuals of that species are killed by pollution, habitat destruction, competition with invasive species (or whatever, depending on the species involved) unseen and unremarked. So, in its way, that stuffed (or pickled- people really get grossed out by wet specimens) individual is helping alert people to its species' plight. Preserved specimens make better conversation starters in this sense than photos or other less-tangible representations.

stargatedalek

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2014, 10:28:01 PM »
I'm the second reaction

live galleries are definitely more impressive for me, but they aren't possible with a lot of animals, they also require a lot more space and upkeep
so taxidermy is the only way many people will ever get to see certain animals up close
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Takama

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2014, 11:02:10 PM »
I have no proplem with Taxidermey animals. As my Grandpa used to have a Fox that he hunted one time, and had it on display.

Some of my local Farm Shops have mounted Heads.  While my Local Walmart has a Full size Black Bear on Display in the Hunting Section.

But my favorite place to see Taxidermy is a big Outdoors Store Called Scheels. they have al sorts of American Animals on Display



stargatedalek

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2014, 11:48:25 PM »
I love visiting Bass Pro shops stores, I make an effort to do so whenever I visit the States
their displays are always beautiful and "full of life" (an ironic description)

most of the local institutions are focused on marine biology, so its more typical to find preserved specimens than mounts in displays
« Last Edit: October 16, 2014, 11:48:43 PM by stargatedalek »
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pachyrhinosaurus

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2014, 03:04:54 AM »
Definitely in number two. I also do not mind taxidermy in private hands as long as it is an antique, or older.
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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2014, 12:16:52 PM »
So, everyone here loves taxidermy!? I was expecting more mixed reactions!

bmathison1972

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2014, 01:20:18 PM »
So, everyone here loves taxidermy!? I was expecting more mixed reactions!

taxidermy is hilarious! It keeps me in stitches!  :P :P :P

animaltoyforum

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2014, 01:21:40 PM »
So, everyone here loves taxidermy!? I was expecting more mixed reactions!

taxidermy is hilarious! It keeps me in stitches!  :P :P :P

Well, that's sewn this thread right up!  :))  :P



GiselleGazelle

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2014, 03:44:22 PM »
I was once called "mentally disturbed" for having an interest in taxidermy, lol.

Ana

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2014, 03:58:28 PM »
Am I the only one here who find the taxidermy a creepy thing? I can hardly look at it most of the times. But I find many other things creepy for example some dolls or wax human replicas, there is something disturbing about them. Maybe it's strange that I actually try to sculpt realistic animals and don't like this kind of stuff?  ::)

From the other hand I really like watching and studying skeletons... I must be weird? ???

About the creepiness of taxidermy, don't you remember the guy from "Psychose" by A. Hitchcock?  :D
« Last Edit: November 28, 2014, 04:02:05 PM by Ana »

animaltoyforum

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2014, 04:49:22 PM »
Am I the only one here who find the taxidermy a creepy thing? I can hardly look at it most of the times. But I find many other things creepy for example some dolls or wax human replicas, there is something disturbing about them. Maybe it's strange that I actually try to sculpt realistic animals and don't like this kind of stuff?  ::)

From the other hand I really like watching and studying skeletons... I must be weird? ???

About the creepiness of taxidermy, don't you remember the guy from "Psychose" by A. Hitchcock?  :D

You're the first person in this thread to find it creepy but you're certainly not alone - there are many people who share your view. I wonder, are you creeped out more by trophy heads, or do you have the same reaction to any taxidermy? How about dried/pinned insects and things, is your reaction the same?

Maybe you don't mind skeletons because they are somehow less 'personal' than a skin?

Re: Psycho. When one starts to taxidermy members of their own family, that's a sign they've probably overstepped a line...  >:D

Ana

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2014, 07:04:53 PM »
Am I the only one here who find the taxidermy a creepy thing? I can hardly look at it most of the times. But I find many other things creepy for example some dolls or wax human replicas, there is something disturbing about them. Maybe it's strange that I actually try to sculpt realistic animals and don't like this kind of stuff?  ::)

From the other hand I really like watching and studying skeletons... I must be weird? ???

About the creepiness of taxidermy, don't you remember the guy from "Psychose" by A. Hitchcock?  :D

You're the first person in this thread to find it creepy but you're certainly not alone - there are many people who share your view. I wonder, are you creeped out more by trophy heads, or do you have the same reaction to any taxidermy? How about dried/pinned insects and things, is your reaction the same?

Maybe you don't mind skeletons because they are somehow less 'personal' than a skin?

Re: Psycho. When one starts to taxidermy members of their own family, that's a sign they've probably overstepped a line...  >:D

I'm not sure exactly what makes me feel that way. I suppose there are few things at once. I don't like the whole idea of stuffing a life being and let it look half dead with a strange strange eyes and matte hair. They never look exactly as the real animals, there are always some details, even very small that make the difference and these details create in my opinion some kind of zombie look. I would be absolutely scared if these animals would start to move too. Also I don't like the fact that some of animals were killed specially for the purpose of being changed into taxidermy, what a horror, isn't it?  :o  Some badly made taxidermy however may be creepy up to some ridiculous level and then it's not scary anymore  ;D Here some horrible examples http://www.topito.com/top-animaux-empailles-taxidermie

About skeletons, I see them as something more educative, they show the inner structure of the animal that is not normally visible, so they teach actually much more new things (the colours of fur of animal we can always see on the photographs, so the taxidermy doesn't show anything new). And of course skeletons never look half dead but completely dead, I think that's the difference too. So there is nothing confusing about them. ;) 

Oh, you also asked about pinned insects. Well, I prefer to learn about insects from the photos and plastic models than form the pinned specimens. But anyway pinned insects don't look as creepy as taxidermy to me. Maybe because it's harder to feel empathy for an insect, how can I imagine its point of view, I know so little about it's perception and the way it sees and feels the world. However I would rather not enjoy having pinned butterfly or beetle at home, they are more beautiful when they are alive and free so it's kind of sad to see them dead too.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 08:00:18 AM by Ana »

Newt

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2014, 03:45:17 PM »
It sounds like you may be experiencing something analogous to the uncanny valley with taxidermied specimens.

Ana

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2014, 07:41:04 PM »
It sounds like you may be experiencing something analogous to the uncanny valley with taxidermied specimens.


Yes, I suppose it may be that! I also dislike some human like figures if they are quite similar to real human but move like robots or something. Also ball jointed dolls are for me very not pleasant to look at. I think perhaps my feelings against the taxidermy are related with "uncanny valley" in some way :)

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2016, 08:42:28 AM »
Would anyone object to seeing a taxidermied human being in a museum? Not the kind seen in Body Works that shows the internal anatomy, but more like a human version of traditional animal dioramas. Something like the human diorama in the original Planet of the Apes film.

stargatedalek

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2016, 01:49:29 PM »
So like a real wax museum? I would hold no objection so long as the people agreed to it before they died, like organ donating, but skin donating.
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sbell

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2016, 02:54:17 PM »
There are already the plasticizing travelling exhibits, where people (and animals) are injected with plastics, often after being opened, sectioned, or otherwise made visible internally. I havne't been in a place to see thes exhibits, but they are apparently very popular, and incredibly informative (although, of course, not without controversy).

As far as I know, most 'exhibits' are volunteers/donations or J Doe's. I can't imagine taxidermy would be much different.

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Re: The taxidermy discussion thread
« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2016, 05:27:25 PM »
Would anyone object to seeing a taxidermied human being in a museum? Not the kind seen in Body Works that shows the internal anatomy, but more like a human version of traditional animal dioramas. Something like the human diorama in the original Planet of the Apes film.

Just come hang out with me after I hit the buffet at an Indian restaurant...because I will be STUFFED  :P