First Days Are Scary

It’s the end of October and that means it’s time for pumpkin carving, ghost stories and Haunted Museum at The Natural History Museum. The museum closes to the public and members enjoy an amazing evening full of Dia de los Muertos arts & crafts, curatorial collections, and spooky festivities.

I was thrilled that this would be my first day to volunteer at the museum! All you had to do was come dressed in all black and attend the information session beforehand where you would be assigned your roles for the evening.

Liz the Volunteer Coordinator must have remembered my interest because I was scheduled at the curatorial table, “Gravestone Taxidermy”! Thanks Liz! I was super excited I would have the opportunity to meet Master Taxidermist Tim Bovard of NHM!

There was expected to be more than 800 members in attendance. The Taxidermy table was located in the museum’s foyer that was decorated with marigolds, hanging paper papel, painted donkeys, and skeleton gobos on the ceilings. The foyer also had snacks and refreshments, a live Charles Darwin, and a DJ spinning ghoul tunes. I caught Darwin tapping his foot to an EDM track when it came on. I wonder what he’d think of that music if he were around now?

At our table Tim had on display a variety of specimens and Taxidermy supplies to educate guests about the art and process. Before the guests arrived I had time to ask Tim any questions and learn about the specimens.

It seemed a lot to memorize at first but after I observed Tim talk to a couple of guests I felt confident to do the same. Since everything is still fresh in my mind I’ll tell you all of the specimens. There were a bunch of cats; a fishing catservaljaguarcheetahmountain lionleopardsnow leopard and a bobcat skin. For birds we had; a red collared parrotCalifornia quail and a raven. Among other animals was a horned lizardCalifornia ground squirrel, cast rattlesnake and a coyote jaw.

The supplies to demonstrate how Taxidermy is done consisted of a small wrapped baby possum, sculpted foam body, glass eyes, artificial animal jaw and a foam nose. Oh! Lets not forget the cute stuffed animal cat to educate kids on the difference between Taxiied and “stuffed” animals. Tim would ask them, “Which one looks more realistic?” They always got the question right:)

What most guests don’t know about the museums diorama is that the habitats are all man made. Any plant life must be painstakingly be recreated by hand. Tim explained the process he used to create leaves. First he would vacuum mold a real leaf and then cast sometimes thousands of leafs and have to hand cut and paint them. He had out on the table an example of a fig that he’d cast out of foam and had yet painted.

Our “Gravestone Taxidermy” table proved to be a hit with kids and adults! Everyone liked stroking the animals and people were fascinated to learn how Taxidermy is created. I had the best time on my first day volunteering with Tim and really enjoyed talking to the guests, especially the kids. Kids are my favorite!