Taxidermy: Stitching together nature and culture

Taxidermy is a powerful and challenging subject; it is the dream of arresting age and beauty, an encounter with nature frozen in time. From the Wunderkammer of the sixteenth century to contemporary museum dioramas, taxidermy has evolved from noblemen’s novelty objects into a rich material culture in it’s own right, but the vocabulary used to describe and catalog taxidermy collections has not seen the same evolution. It has historically been common for researchers and collections staff to refer to taxidermy mounts as specimens. However, in the past decade, the accuracy of the implications of this term has been questioned, and new vocabulary has started to enter into discussions. “To what extent is a natural specimen an artefact? Where does the border between nature and culture lie?”