Carnegie Museum Exhibit "Stuffed Animals" opens

Submitted by The Taxidermologist on 5/21/06 at 3:21 PM. ( )

The new temporary exhibit is called "Stuffed Animals: The Art and Science of Taxidermy," opened this morning in a preview for members. The Collection Manager of Mammals, Sue McLaren, and I, placed a couple tables of extras for the members to see along with the temporary exhibit in a portion of the Carnegie Museum of Art. In order to have a hands on activity, I took in a small bale of excelsior and wrapped bodies with children that could be used as manikins for mounting birds. I let the children chose which bird, and then with various contact outlines from birds I have mounted, we wrapped up manikins for two Great Horned Owls, a Long-Eared Owl, Two Blue Jays, Three Robins, a Canary, three ducks, and a Least Bittern.

The Exhibit is designed to show a brief history of Taxidermy, concentrating on the artists at Carnegie Museum. I helped create the story line and the text on the various panels to accompany the exhibit. There is mention and pictures of Peales Museum, J. W. Elwood, Wards Natural Science Establishment, the making of manikins, even a photo of a Blue Glint Glass Eye, and a Taxidermy Merit Badge Book. There are X-ray pictures of a number of previous pieces of taxidermy done here, including a freeze-dried specimen, wax impregneted herptiles, old excelsior wrapped birds, and a "stuffed" ocelet. There is a couple touch screens that show manikin preparation by our taxidermists and William T. Hornaday. And even one stating how Taxidermists were among the first conservationists in the United States, (if not the world).

In conjuction with the exhibit, I was interviewed by the local Pittsburgh Paper and appear in this Sunday's edition. It is also carried on-line at the Post Gazette. Here is a link to the article:

One of the cool things about the Post Gazette, is that they also have a video slide show portion of their newspaper. If you have ever wondered what the person behind these postings credited to "The Taxidermologist" sounds and looks like, check out this slide show at:

I never saw the galeys for the slide show or the text of the article, and of course some errors are present, but I hope the text does a service to the art of taxidermy. To my knowledge, this temporary show is probably the largest show ever devoted to "taxidermy" vs. the few that have existed on diorama making.

I would suggest that this summer would be the best one to visit Pittsburgh in a long time. The Carnegie Museum of Art, has an excellent show titled Fierce Friends this summer, exploring the intergradation of human lives with animals - see the art web site:
or a review of the exhibition at
They have a few taxidermy specimens on exhibit (In AN Art Museum!), every edition that Audubon painted opened to a particular page, a series of animal skeletons, and a famous art painting of a taxidermists shop. All Cool stuff!

Through August 13, also in the building there is a selection of Flat Art and Sculpture borrowed from the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming - with pieces by some of the best wildlife artists in the world.

Pittsburgh has the National Aviary, a Zoo, Conservatory, Kennywood, and lots of other cool stuff that you could drop the kids off to - should they not want to visit the museum. This all sounds t=like an advertisement, but the more people see taxidermy in a good light, the better that Taxidermists are seen as contributing to the education and art in the United States.

Thanks Ken, for the space to advertise this exhibit. I appreciate what WASCO does for the industry (Heck, I persuaded the Exhibits person to buy a "plastic" Duck from your company that made it in the exhibit - plastic head, neck, body, and cast feet). McKenzie has a coyote manikin on exhibit next to one mounted by a taxidermist here on our own sculpted form.

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Sounds like a good exhibit

This response submitted by al on 5/22/06 at 2:21 PM. ( )

but such a short run time. A little out of my way.

I do happen to be in Berlin this summer. There is a Natural History museum with a good collection. Strange/time-warp atmosphere as it is in the formally EAST Berlin.

Very Nice

This response submitted by Ken Edwards on 5/22/06 at 4:32 PM. ( )

Stephen, that looks like a great exhibit. Very cool slide show! Now I finally know what the Taxidermologist looks like, even though I have been working with you off and on for 20 years now. (In the summer of 1986, you sent a long letter to Breakthrough Magazine on bird skinning which I illustrated for issue #13 [page 69].)


This response submitted by MLpotts on 5/22/06 at 4:50 PM. ( )

on what looks like (I viewed the slide show) a fantastic exhibit as well as the museum's permanent collection. It would be nice to find the space to make the current special exhibit permanent. How excited you must be to go to work every morning. I will definately try to make the trip.

Thanks for the comments

This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 5/22/06 at 6:15 PM. ( )

I was beginning to wonder if anyone had looked at this post.

My real job at the museum has very little to do with taxidermy or exhibits except when they occassionally upgrade some of the permanent exhibits or put in temporary exhibits like this one or the recent one on Lewis and Clark. The majority of time I work managing the research collections for the Section of Birds and the Section of Amphibians and Reptiles. Both collections are in the top ten collections in their respective vertebrate categories - each database has roughly 200,000 specimens with specimens dating back to 1842.

After 25 years at the Carnegie Museum, I finally have my 15 minutes of fame (one of our componants in Carnegie Institute is the Warhol Museum commemorating Andy Warhol who coined the phrase that everyone has 15 minutes of fame).

The temporary exhibit is hoped to draw additional public to help substitute for the major renovation of the Dinosaur Hall - the major draw of the Museum. Almost all of the specimens are off exhibit in New Jersey being remounted. For the general public, taxidermy is almost an anathema and hopefully, at least locally, people will be educated that it is much more than animal mortuary science.

Around the world I am seeing more publicity on taxidermy and diorama topics. The new ICOM group on Taxidermy, while small in size, has a good web site to support taxidermy exhibits at

Steve Quinn just came out with an excellent book detailing the history of the Dioramas at the American Museum The AMNH also has slide shows though I couldn't see them on my computer.

And then of course the is making taxidermy information available for the world, linking companies, personal web sites, and taxidermists' petty fights for all to see (maybe I shouldn't have put that last comment in there)

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