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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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“The Destruction Wrought by Man”: Smithsonian Taxidermy and the Birth of Wildlife Conservation

“The Destruction Wrought by Man”: Smithsonian Taxidermy and the Birth of Wildlife Conservation

(p.73) Chapter Three “The Destruction Wrought by Man”: Smithsonian Taxidermy and the Birth of Wildlife Conservation
Nature's Mirror

Mary Anne Andrei

University of Chicago Press

While at the Smithsonian Institution, William T. Hornaday, Frederic A. Lucas, and Charles H. Townsend did pioneering work as taxidermist-naturalists. Tasked with collecting specimens to build the scientific collections of the National Museum and the U.S. Fish Commission, they undertook collecting expeditions that focused first on endangered or recently extinct species while specimens or skeletal remains could still be obtained for research. They believed that the depredations that endangered such species should be brought to the American public’s attention through compelling exhibits that could encourage a more responsible environmental ethic. Townsend led expeditions along the West Coast in search of the northern elephant seal; Hornaday traveled throughout the western United States, particularly Montana, in search of what had fast become the elusive American bison, and Lucas traveled to Funk Island, Newfoundland, to collect skeletal remains and feathers of the extinct great auk. These trips served as epiphanies for all three men, guiding the rest of their professional careers. In the end, their efforts would not only transform natural history museum exhibitions, but would also set the mold for every essential part of the American wildlife conservation movement.

Keywords:   William T. Hornaday, Frederic A. Lucas, Charles H. Townsend, Smithsonian, National Museum, U.S. Fish Commission, wildlife conservation, American bison, great auk, northern elephant seal

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