Taxidermy, or “stuffed” animals, are specimens that have been specially prepared, preserved and posed to show what the creature may have been like in life, but the real and the not real here is difficult. The animal itself is, or was, a real animal; there are no taxidermy unicorns, for example. Taxidermy is the art of preserving an animal's body by mounting (on armor) or filling, for the purpose of exhibiting or studying it. Animals are often, but not always, depicted in a realistic state.
The word taxidermy describes the process of preserving the animal, but the word is also used to describe the final product, which is called taxidermy supports or is simply known as taxidermy. The word taxidermy is derived from the Greek words taxis and derma. Taxis means disposition, and derma means skin (the dermis). The word taxidermy translates into skin disposition.
In 1851, London hosted the Great Exhibition, which featured around 100,000 objects from more than 15,000 collaborators, including a lot of taxidermy. Indian exhibits included a stuffed elephant (although that animal was actually an African elephant found in a nearby museum). Hancock's taxidermy, which the Official Catalog noted, “will go a long way in raising the art of taxidermy to the level of other arts that have hitherto held higher pretensions. And so it was in the years following the Great Exposition, taxidermy became a very popular pastime; even a young Theodore Roosevelt took classes.
It got to the point where Victorians anthropomorphized their taxidermy, dressing stuffed animals in clothes and turning them into paintings like those created by Walter Potter. Sometimes they also produced creatures with additional heads or legs. Back at the museum, Akeley tanned the leather in a 12-week process that converted 2.5-inch thick leather into quarter-inch leather. He then made an outline of the elephant on the ground and built its internal frame with steel, wood and the elephant's bones on top of it.
He covered the frame with wire mesh, and then clay, which he sculpted to recreate the elephant's muscles. After placing the skin in this shape and making sure that the clay accurately replicated every crease and wrinkle, Milgrom says, he cast the shape in plaster to make a lightweight mannequin, which is what he finally stretched the skin on. This is the process he used to create the elephants in the Akeley African Hall of Mammals. Now we use polystyrene foam, which weighs nothing, so that a child can carry it.
From time to time I make one myself, for example, for an unusually large fish or a fat chicken as a pet. I always make bodies for a cat or a dog because there is no prefabricated. Also, a lot of people think that we can use real eyes in a frame, but the real eye is like a water bag, and it collapses, so taxidermists use glass eyes. Even teeth are artificial because real teeth dry out and crack.
The MSU Museum has many animal specimens in exhibits and collections. Visitors often asked what these specimens are and how they were made. Most of the animals in the exhibits were once alive, but they are now examples of taxidermy. While false taxidermy, or white false taxidermy, which connotes the usual white resin used for many false animal heads, does not employ the use of the skin of a real dead animal, it is a more than broad representation of the animal as seen in its habitat.
First place went to A Fight in the Tree-Tops, by taxidermist William Temple Hornaday, which showed two male Bornean orangutans fighting over a female. 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. Traditionally, taxidermists create “live mounts,” mounted specimens that sit down to make them appear alive. 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 according to scientific data.
This can be achieved without opening the body cavity, so the taxidermist usually does not see the internal organs or blood. The best-known practitioner of this genre was the English taxidermist Walter Potter, whose most famous work was The Death and Burial of Cock Robin. I guess in a way I am, but I consider myself a studio skin preparer rather than a taxidermist. 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.
For those who want to have the “real offer”, the best place to find it is in an animal sanctuary where animals roam alive and free. The hunter then displays the fiberglass head on the wall instead of the real animal's head to commemorate the hunting experience. 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. Study skins also take up less space than an entire stuffed animal, which means that museums can store more specimens in their collections.
The methods practiced by taxidermists have been improved over the past century, increasing taxidermic quality and decreasing toxicity. With more and more animals falling on the list of endangered species, it apparently became natural that the next trend in taxidermy would eliminate real fur and replace it with sculpted or molded versions of animals. . .
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