Many people think that taxidermy means stuffing animals. Taxi means moving, and derm means skin. Nowadays, the anatomy of an animal is initially sculpted from non-hardenable clay. By the beginning of the 20th century, following the completion of the Ward Society of American Taxidermists, individuals such as Akeley, Hornaday and Leon Pray had perfected techniques and began to emphasize art.
After the creation of the Lion and Tiger exhibition, a prominent French taxidermist named Jules Verieaux set up another group of animals, albeit with a different design. Endangered animals, such as rhinoceroses, are highly protected and some animals, such as fish, are difficult to preserve, so taxidermists make these frames with materials such as fiberglass and plastic resin. There are many different ways to do taxidermy, but they generally involve “mounting an animal's skin on a fake body.” A number of words and phrases used in everyday life derive from the vocabulary of taxidermy, the threat of hitting someone's “stuffing” or contemptuously referring to someone as a plush shirt, meaning they are false or artificially pompous. Many later taxidermists, whose work was among the most advanced on display, could attribute their careers to Ward's Establishment, and many current museums have exhibition collections built around these early Ward specimens.
Study skins also take up less space than an entire stuffed animal, which means that museums can store more specimens in their collections. Many prominent Americans, such as the famous painter Charles Wilson Peale and the famous military leader George Armstrong Custer, were enthusiastic taxidermists. According to Milgrom, in these categories, taxidermists try to create an animal without using any of its real parts, make an eagle with turkey feathers, for example, or create a realistic panda with bear skin or even recreate extinct species based on scientific data. After the restoration of peace in Europe after 1815, Britain witnessed the Museum's continued growth in status, as naturalists and taxidermists discovered that the public had the time and inclination to devote themselves to such collections.
Because body parts, such as skin, are preserved when an animal is dissected, future scientists can get all kinds of useful information from stuffed animals, such as size, color, and texture. Indian exhibits included a stuffed elephant (although that animal was actually an African elephant found in a nearby museum). In the late 1800s, British taxidermists established the Rowland Ward study that was established in London; the people who worked there are credited with many improved methods in taxidermy. First place was awarded to A Fight in the Tree-Tops, by taxidermist William Temple Hornaday, which showed two male Bornean orangutans fighting over a female.
In those days, competition was fierce, so conservation methods differed from taxidermist to taxidermist and were heavily guarded, some even going to the grave without revealing their secrets.