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Is Taxidermy Dead?

Vintage pulp magazine ad for Taxidermy career.

Several recent news stories suggest that displays of animal taxidermy are becoming extinct at mainstream establishment museums. They are viewed by the academically trained — those in charge — as controversial embarrassments and, worse, old. After all, the thinking goes, wouldn’t everyone be happier strapping on a VR headset and stumble-frolicking with digital wildlife?

And let’s not ignore the effects of climate change. In October 2023, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh removed its diorama of lions attacking a camel, on display for over a century, because it was judged to be emotionally “harmful” to modern visitors. In August the Delbridge Museum of Natural History in Sioux Falls simply closed its doors forever — because its outgassing animals, dead for over 40 years, were now feared to be a menace to human health.

Yes, there is a measure of revenge-beyond-the-grave in that latter story, but it still seems like an air scrubbing overreach.

Yodeling bar life of Hayward, Wisconsin.
Yodeling bar life of Hayward, Wisconsin.

Yet even while mainstream museums are mothballing their taxidermy, smaller attractions are keeping our stuffed animal pals in the public eye. Taverns and saloons, for example, have always been safe houses for taxidermy that might be shunned elsewhere. And while there has always been an appreciation for the well-preserved fur-bearing trout or a crusty merman, new taxidermists are now reimagining earthly fauna (mostly using creatures that were already deceased) into fantastical forms.

The future of taxidermy may be on the fringes of tourism, but it seems nonetheless bright in a place such as the Wacky Taxidermy and Miniatures Museum. Its displays are created by a couple of 30-somethings, and they craft a kind of stuffed animal art that you would never see in the stiff-necked Smithsonian, not even in a 5-D simulation.

Wacky Taxidermy and Miniatures Museum.
Wacky Taxidermy and Miniatures Museum, Mackinaw City, Michigan

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