Museum's exhibition of taxidermy is the stuff of fascination
Do you think there's nothing more to taxidermy than stuffing a dead animal? Well, think again.
For hundreds of years, the process of preserving animal skin – together with its feathers, fur or scales – has held up a mirror to our relationship with the natural world.
The controversial history of this art form is under the spotlight at Saffron Walden Museum in its new exhibition, Worlds Under Glass: Adventures in Taxidermy.
It has been a part of Western culture for centuries, from science – Charles Darwin would not have been allowed to travel on HMS Beagle without the skill he had learned at Edinburgh University – to fashion – no stylish Victorian house was complete without a taxidermy collection.
The exhibition explores the history of taxidermy, from its crude beginnings in ‘Wunderkammer’ – otherwise known as cabinets of curiosities – to its use in scientific discovery.
The Saffron Walden Museum team showcases its impressive natural history collection, which includes many pieces not usually on public display. Examples of taxidermy which could be considered crude in their technique are exhibited alongside impressive displays of exotic birds, study skins and modern examples of taxidermy that capture the character of specimens with incredible accuracy.
Visitors can get a close-up view of a variety of fascinating specimens plus a glimpse into the taxidermist’s art through a display of materials and techniques.
Charlotte Pratt, the museum’s learning and outreach officer and exhibition curator, said: “Worlds Under Glass aims to help viewers reflect on the subject of taxidermy and its place in our scientific, cultural and natural heritage.
“Our special thanks go to taxidermist Derek Frampton, who kindly allowed us to film him working in his studio, photograph his tools and equipment and lend us a selection of glass eyes for display. There are examples of Derek’s work in the museum’s collections and displays.”
Worlds Under Glass: Adventures in Taxidermy runs until Sunday, September 23 during the museum’s opening hours, Tuesdays to Saturdays 10am to 5pm and Sundays and bank holidays 2pm-5pm. For more information visit www.saffronwaldenmuseum.org or call 01799 510333.