The Process of Taxidermy

Taxidermy 4
Rob Kelsey, Specimen Preparator & Lab Supervisor
June 15, 2024

Content Warning: The following blog post contains imagery and descriptions of specimen preparation.

Did you know that not only are all of the animals on display at the Nature Museum real, but the steps involved in their preparation have been more or less the same for hundreds of years? Despite changing opinions on chemical preservatives, the process you can see happening today in the Beecher Lab would have happened in much the same way when our earliest specimens were being prepared for the collection.

Taxidermy 3

First, the animal is skinned and cleaned slowly and carefully, so that the skin is as clean and undamaged as possible. Traces of fats, oils, or muscles can be tempting treats for any number of museum pests that we’d rather keep out of our collection!

After the skin has been prepared, it is wrapped around a custom-shaped form which is meant to mimic the shape and proportions of the animal’s original body. This ensures that the skin is neither stretching nor sagging, but instead sits neatly, as it would have in life.

The skin is then sewn back up, and the fur or feathers are positioned to cover up the seam to give the most accurate impression of how the animal may have looked in life. Patterns and markings should be identifiable, especially if they are unique, or “diagnostic” to that particular species.

Taxidermy 1
Taxidermy 2

Thank you to the US Forest Service - International Programs for supporting our work in the Beecher Lab to prepare bird specimens.

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