In the brief history of American museum taxidermy, the natural history museum shifted its focus from pure research to include dissemination of knowledge through exhibits and public education. The taxidermists of Ward’s Natural Science Establishment—William T. Hornaday, Frederic A. Lucas, Charles H. Townsend, Frederic S. Webster, and Carl E. Akeley—shaped and defined the public side of American natural history museums, zoos, and aquaria through their technical advances in taxidermy, innovative exhibit design, and distinctive educational content. As they transformed the work of taxidermy from a trade to a museum profession, they revolutionized methods of animal display, transforming exhibits from rows of stuffed specimens with scientific labels to lifelike mounts arranged in family groups, supplemented with photographs and descriptive labels. At the same time, they conceived of an educational directive that would not only teach museum visitors about the natural world, but would instill in them an appreciation for the human role in nature—specifically, the responsibility of humans in preventing the extinction of species.
Keywords: Ward’s Natural Science Establishment, William T. Hornaday, Frederic A. Lucas, Charles H. Townsend, Frederic S. Webster, Carl E. Akeley, natural history museums, museum taxidermy, exhibits, extinction
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