What is taxidermy?
AudiencePrimary school, Secondary school, Tertiary
Learning stageStage 3, Stage 4, Stage 5, Stage 6
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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.
Scroll through the images on this digital story to learn about the taxidermy process used to stuff a Brushtail Possum for display.