• Audience
    Primary school, Secondary school, Tertiary
  • Learning stage
    Stage 3, Stage 4, Stage 5, Stage 6
  • Curriculum area
    Science and Technology, Creative Arts
  • Resource type
    Digital story

On this page...


Taxidermy is a way of preparing, stuffing and/or mounting an animal for display or study. It usually involves arranging an animal's real skin over a fake body to make the animal look alive! It is a way of preserving the body so that scientists or Museum visitors can see what the animal was like when it was alive.

Not every animal in the Museum is stuffed to look as though it is alive, most are kept behind the scenes in the Museum's collections. Some are preserved in ethanol, some as skeletons, and some as study skins. A study skin is a simplified version of taxidermy - after the animal is skinned, it is stuffed and allowed to dry. Study skins are not made to look alive, and are used to help scientists with their research.


  • One of our most popular visitor questions about the animals on display in Museum exhibitions is "are they real?" The answer is "yes" they are real on the outside but have been stuffed on the inside, and they are no longer alive. Often the only part which isn't real on the outside of a display animal is the replacement glass eyes, and some touch-up paint.
  • Museum taxidermy allows us to teach and display life on earth. Despite all the technology surrounding us, many believe having the 'real' animal in front of you will always have more impact.


Learning resource

Scroll through the images on this digital story to learn about the taxidermy process used to stuff a Brushtail Possum for display.


  • Brushtail Possum taxidermy
    After a Brushtail Possum is collected or donated to the Museum, the skin is removed from the body and measurements are taken. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum
  • Brushtail Possum taxidermy
    The measurements of the original flesh and muscle areas are drawn so artificial body parts can be created to replace the original to size. Various fibres such as cotton are used. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum
  • Brushtail Possum taxidermy
    A mould is taken of the possum’s head using silicon and an artificial head is casted using polyurethane. A wire is inserted into the cast skull. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum
  • Brushtail Possum taxidermy
    The body shape is made using coconut fibre and wood wool, and the cast head is attached to the body. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum
  • Brushtail Possum Taxidermy
    Cotton is used to help secure the body to the head. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum
  • Brushtail Possum taxidermy
    Wire functions like bones and ligaments acting like an internal support. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum
  • Brushtail possum taxidermy
    Clay is used to hold a replacement glass eyes, the skin is kept soft using water, and the body is inserted into the original skin. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum
  • Brushtail Possum taxidermy
    The body is stitched up following any further filling being inserted, and the pins are used to hold the specimen in place as it dries. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum
  • Brushtail Possum taxidermy
    The possum is attached to a branch an set in a natural position. It is then put on display in the Museum. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum