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Historical taxi-photo

Discussion in 'Taxidermy History' started by RDA, Jul 17, 2008.

  1. John Janelli

    John Janelli New Member

    The taxidermist on the left of James L. Clark in this awesome photo is Gardell Christensen. To say he was Clark's right hand man is an understatement of no small magnitude. Gardell was probably the most gifted yet low profile taxidermist of the great museum era. Not only did he work at the AMNH full time, he moonlighted at the Clark Studio just as every other museum taxidermist had done before. Akeley himself not only worked at the Clark studios on his pet projects but he had scores of other museums send their work there to be done as well.
    Gardell Christensen was a carefully trained and finished taxidermist, tanner, sculptor and just about any other hat you'd care to hang on this incredibly talented man. I have some rare photos that Sinclair gave me of Gardell posing next to the most famed wild life cinematographer the world has ever known in his day, Martin Johnson. In the photo, James L. is presenting a life size leopard (!!!!!!!!!!!) to Martin Johnson that was proudly done by Gardell who is standing to the right of Johnson. Other photos include Gardell cutting and hammering out sheet lead ear liners for a kudu (then spelled Koo Doo), making plaster and burlap manikins and numerous other taxidermy related crafts that were part of the day to day regime of doing museum work.
    The two male lions were collected by Sally Clark, Jimmy's wife who had her hands on every facet of the work from rifle to halls. She ran the studios while Jimmy was away for long museum expeditions often for months at a time.
    The most amazing thing to me is that one could easily tell that these photos were taken AFTER Akeley's death in Africa only because the manikins are without the classic roman joints that Akeley demanded all his museum animals were to be mounted on. That is to say, each leg was removed separately so that they could be slid into the cased skin of the animal being mounted. Even the big bull giraffe was mounted in such a way whereby the entire animal was skinned through a single ventral incision with only a few inch incision to release the hoofs which by the way were also individually removed off the bone core and filled with plaster to prevent imminent shrinkage. A short Y cut was made to remove the skull as well.
    As usual, it was Gardell Christensen that did and or assisted in all the back breaking labor of mounting these colossal master pieces. From field mouse to the Field Museum, that 'Ol Boy knew his stuff!
    I would encourage anyone who would really enjoy more awesome photos and stories of all the dioramas in the American Museum of Natural History, to get a copy of my dear friend Steve Quinn's latest book entitled, "Windows On Nature". Steve is the current director of the department of preparations and exhibitons over at the museum. One of my most memorable days with Steve was when he personally autographed a copy of his book to Henry Inchumuk that I sent to him for Christmas of 2006. Either men never heard of each other but when they were mutually informed who each was in the world of museum exhibition, I just knew their hearts shook hands even over the miles that separate them. Thanks for posting the photo RDA, I loved seeing it!