Behind The Scenes

I may have not got a spot immediately volunteering in the Taxidermy studio behind-the-scenes at the The Natural History Museum but I got a tour!

How did that happen? Well my instructor Allis from Prey Taxidermy is part of the museum staff at NHM. Before she was staff there she was a volunteer, training several years behind-the-scenes with Master Taxidermist Tim Bovard of NHM.

I’d mentioned the story to Allis about Houdini back when I knew little about laws protecting wildlife. Allis let me know that it was actually illegal to posses a raptor so I decided to donate Houdini to NHM. The day I met Allis at the museum to give her Houdini she was kind enough to give me the backstage tour!

If you think there are a lot of animals on display to the public you should see behind-the-scenes! They have so many works in progress all around. The NHM is unique in that it is one of the only museums in the country to still employ a full-time Taxidermist. Dioramas and exhibits slowly change unlike other museums in the United States. You can see in the above photo the pulley system used back when the museum was first getting ready to open and they had hundred of animals (some of them very large) to Taxidermy.

In the hallway are giant chest freezers full of specimens and even a huge walk in freezer as tall as the walls! We walk inside the studio. I have to pick up my jaw off the floor for what I see! Taxidermy overload! Allis pulls out drawers of old Taxiied monkeys that have been preserved with a wax cast so small details are preserved like fingerprints. Glancing around I noticed a folded Sumatran Tiger skin in progress atop a (another?!) freezer. I couldn’t help but touch it.

Allis was bursting with information and happy to share how things are done at the museum with me. Importantly all of these animals died naturally and were salvaged from either zoos, wildlife rescues, roadkill, etc. Sometimes two of the same animal is used to create one finished piece because of damage to the animal.

Before I left I wanted a little pouch filled with magic dust. Why? So I could sprinkle it on all the animals to make them come to life, duh. Remember when the moose head comes to life in ‘Return To Oz’? I love that movie!

Before leaving I stood in the center of the magical studio and shut my eyes. If you use your imagination you start to shiver from the cold. I was at the North Pole listening to the Arctic Sea with my friend the walrus right beside me.