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Nature's MirrorHow Taxidermists Shaped America's Natural History Museums and Saved Endangered Species$
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Mary Anne Andrei

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226730318

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226730455.001.0001

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“Breathing New Life into Stuffed Animals”: The Society of American Taxidermists

“Breathing New Life into Stuffed Animals”: The Society of American Taxidermists

(p.41) Chapter Two “Breathing New Life into Stuffed Animals”: The Society of American Taxidermists
Nature's Mirror

Mary Anne Andrei

University of Chicago Press

The Society of American Taxidermists (1880-1885), founded by William T. Hornaday and Frederic A. Lucas, promoted in the United States Sir William Henry Flower’s new museum idea, by encouraging museums to mount public displays with an educational purpose. The society’s mission was to have naturalistic taxidermy serve a dual purpose as both an object of fine art and as a museum specimen valued as an educational object that could be used in habitat dioramas to inform the public about the natural world. In less than five years, its founders created the new American taxidermy movement and successfully forced a dramatic paradigm shift in museum display, which has not been challenged for more than a century. With the successful public reception of the new taxidermy, American natural history museum directors could no longer afford to display synoptic rows of single mounted specimens, as visitors expected to see more lifelike, artistically prepared taxidermy mounts presented in appropriate habitat settings. Because the society had effected such a fundamental change in museum display, American natural history museums evolved into educational institutions that influenced the way the American public came to view animals and their habitats.

Keywords:   Society of American Taxidermists, naturalistic taxidermy, Sir William Henry Flower, William T. Hornaday, Frederic A. Lucas, new museum, fine art, habitat diorama, specimen, taxidermy

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