Taxidermy in Modern Society

In the 1970s taxidermy was floundering because of ecological awareness. Taxidermy posts, workshops, and displays were shut down” (Milgrom). With modern social movements such as PETA and the Body World exhibit, people began to question whether taxidermy was humane or not. Melissa Milgrom descirbes in her book Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy a time when “taxidermy was in one of it reviled phases, the height of the antifur campaigns of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Lynx Educational Trust for animal Welfare. Advertisements showed beautiful women with flayed dogs draped around their shoulders. People paint-bombed fur coats”. For many, it became impossible to differentiate between taxidermy and animal abuse, while or others taxidermy is the greatest love possible for animals.

One example of such outcry is over the issue of taxidermied polar bears. “Just as canaries were once used to detect toxic gases in coal mines, the changing lives of polar bears now serve as an early warning of global climate change” (New Scientist). Because of this important and unfortunate role that polat bears are playing in modern culture, many people feel guilty about their situation. For this reason, polar bear displays are dying out.”Many museums, eager to snag the ‘iCarly’ demographic, are ditching their taxidermy collections in favor of Imax movies and robotic beasties. A lot of dusty, moth-eaten stuffed animals have piled up in a lot of half-forgotten museum closets” (Garner). Specifically, a polar bear, Knut, who died in 2011, sparked a controversy over whether it was proper to have him mounted or not. “When someone dies”, critic Jochen Kolbe argues, “I think that you don’t want him stuffed in a museum. Knut is not only a polar bear for people. He is a friend, a family member” (Slackman). Due to the intense connection that many share with animals, they tend to feel uncomfortable with these permanent displays. In this situation, over 100 protestors publically went to the zoo, and even more joined the Facebook page. This entire case may be argued against, however, with the tradition of human preservation. “One preserved human, Ms. Milgrom writes, is the British economist and philosopher eremy Bentham (1884-1932), whose body is seated in a chair in a glass case at University College London. His head is now a wax reproduction. ‘His real head is taken out only for ceremonial dinners,’ she writes, ‘to satisfy the clause in the economist’s will requiting his presence at such events” (Garner). With human preservation dating back to the ancient Egyptians, people continue to struggle with the idea of the humanity of taxidermy, and thus its popularity fluxeuates.

The media has grabbed onto this controversy and poked fun at all aspects of it through newspapers and television. The harsh turmoil over it has (whether intentionally or not) renewed and interest in taxidermy. Due to these events, taxidermists all around the world formed the World Taxidermy Championships – a guild. These people who loved their art saw it floundering and decided that they needed to act in order to save it. Because of this action, taxidermy has regained its position in society.

Today, taxidermy is experiencing one of its biggest revivals of all time. Over seven million people visit the National Museum of Natural History each year (a more than $31 million industry). In this way, people still want to see taxidermy and it is still a valid and vital medium for education. Even though it is often thought of as mysterious and unknown, taxidermy is a “thriving subculture” with over 100,000 taxidermists (mostly commercial practitioners). They have magazines, groups, and conventions where they can gather. To the modern game and scientific taxidermist, anatomical accuracy is most important. To accomplish this, taxidermists much be shrewd observers of nature in the wild. Their unofficial motto is “First comes anatomical accuracy, then art” (Garner). In contrast to these taxidermists, however, many are focusing on the art aspect. To them, anatomical accuracy may mean very little. Damien Hurst, for example, is a modern day Walter Potter, creating anthromorphic and artistic interpretations of animals.

Since its inception, taxidermy has been the source of major controversy. Due to this, it has made its way through many crests and valleys in popularity. The entire process of when “an animal starts out looking like the animal, gets mangled beyond recognition, and then ends up looking like an animal again” (Milgrom) can be gruesome for some and enchanting for others. This somewhat counter-productive process leaves us with an ever present memorial of a creature. Even though overall public opinion of taxidermy will continue to vary, one thing is certain; those truly faithful to taxidermy will forever keep the tradition alive.

-C

PS: Sorry that this is a day late!! And sorry that I cannot find the names of the sources that I cited in this…I wrote this and then could not find them =P

Pictures:

http://frontpagemag.com/2010/03/11/animal-wrongs-2/

http://atlasobscura.com/blog/atlas-obscura-visits-the-explorers-club

http://2coolfishing.com/ttmbforum/showthread.php?t=238416

http://www.whosjack.org/damien-hirst-to-open-gallery/

Advertisements

Unintentional Sun Damage

I’ve always been obsessed with sun protection. The last thing I want is to look like a dried out piece of leather…or better yet, in 20 years, a raisin. Among my friends I am always compared to sheets of paper…I like my animal hides tanned – not my skin. Don’t get me wrong – a girl with a perfect spray tan can be beautiful…it’s just not for me. But it’s defiantly better than a tanning bed!

For many of us, we’ve heard the importance of sunscreen and other protective measures when tanning for years, so that’s not what I’m going to focus on today. Instead, I’m going to talk about a type of (somewhat) unintentional UV exposure that can leave you just as harmed (if not more) than lying out in the sun for a day.

UV INDEX PROTECTION CHART

Gel Manicures are probably the most damaging thing I do to my skin. Every two weeks I have a gel manicure. Before I go, I protect my hands with a SPF, but even that might not be enough to protect you from the powerful rays. The lamps used to cure the nails are lower than those of tanning beds, but if using on a regular basis they can be even more harmful because of the direct and prolonged exposure.

So next time you go get exposed to UV rays remember this – skin protection is important (AND DONT LOOK INTO THE LIGHT!). Even if you get flack for it now, in 20 years, everyone will wish they had followed your example whether they have just aged badly or are having more unfortunate effects such as skin cancer. Be careful as we begin the summer!!!

-C

Photos:

http://faithfulprovisions.com/2011/06/07/sunscreen-deals-roundup/

http://www.aimatmelanoma.org/en/aim-for-answers/prevention/about-ultraviolet-radiation/the-uv-index.html

http://greenpointers.com/2012/06/11/so-addicted-gel-nails-not-for-worried-upper-west-side-jewish-ladies/

The Odd World of Television

I’ve compiled a list of five of my all-time favourite television shows (some of which I have discovered extremely recently)! All of these are slightly offbeat and odd, but I think that’s what makes them so special…

Oddities (2010-)-

I came across this show awhile ago, and have to say that it is absolutely amazing. Evan Michelson and Mike Zohn co-own an amazingly quirky antique shop, Obscura Antiques and Oddities, in New York. They sell and buy stuff from mummified body parts to sideshow memorabilia. The show also features buyer Ryan Matthew Cohn, who is extremely interesting (and has the most perfect suits!!). The eccentric customers who come into their shop are really what make this show special, however. They are constantly demonstrating their talents or sharing the most captivating of stories. (Science Network)

Oddities

American Stuffers (2012-)-

This show revolves around taxidermist Ted Ross. His shop, Xtreme Taxidermy in Romance, Arkansas, specializes in pet preservation. He works with three eclectic employees and his family. It’s heartbreaking to watch pet owners suffering the loss of their best friends, but it’s rewarding to see how meaningful it is for them to have their pets back with them again. I am also intrigued by the process that Ted uses to preserve these pets. Instead of traditional mounting (where the hide is mounted to a mold), he uses freeze drying technology that allows for the preservation of the actual, physical body. (Animal Planet)

American Stuffers cast members Joseph Phariss, Dixie Grammer, Daniel Ross and Fred Greer

Family Plots (2004-2006)-

Family Plots followed the family running Poway Bernardo Mortuary in Poway , California. Although the show mostly chronicled the running of the home and the relationships within the family, it also gave viewers into the “mysterious” world of the funeral business. It is extremely interesting for me, for I am considering going into the funeral business, but really is enchanting for anyone. Although this show has not run for a few years, episodes can still be found online if you try to dig them up (oh…bad joke). (A&E Network)

Mysteries at the Museum (2011-)-

This show relays the history of numerous artifacts in multiple museums. Some include shrunken heads at the Mütter Museum, the damage caused by a hydrogen bomb at the National Museum of Nuclear Science History, and even Marilyn Monroe’s Pill Box. I really enjoy the fact that with this show you get to truly understand each individual artifact, because sometimes it is burdensome and awkward to read tiny plaques in front of things. Every episode is unique and extremely interesting. (Travel Channel)

10 Things You Don’t Know About (2012-) –

Taglined as “What your textbooks never told you,” this show shares some interesting facts about history’s best known people. For example, did you know that Benjamin Franklin was a suspected serial killer, that Mormons built Las Vegas, or that Abraham Lincoln slept with men? Historian David Eisenbach shares some of history’s best kept secrets. (H2)

Looking through this list that I’ve compiled, I’m realizing that some of these shows seem rather macabre… but maybe that’s just what I’m into haha. The hipster in me is sad that these types of shows and interests are becoming more and more “mainstream”, but at the same time, I’m so happy that these topics are being opened up to a broader audience.

-C

Photo Credits:

http://www.donewyork.com/shopping/listing/obscura-antiques-oddities/

http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/oddities/bios.html

http://m.arkansasonline.com/news/2012/jan/01/arkansan-turns-taxidermy-work-starring-ro-20120101/

http://www.poptower.com/american-stuffers.htm

http://reality-tv.findthebest.com/l/444/Family-Plots

http://www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/mysteries-at-the-museum/photos/la-raid-bioterror-automaton

http://www.historyplace.com/lincoln/