Is taxidermy in - and by in I mean acceptable? Many of us grew up with it to a certain degree; From shellacked turtles to various hides nailed to grandma's wall - I know my childhood involved a healthy amount. To this day, many a rumpus room probably still has a selection of antlers dotting their wood-panelled walls. So, despite prevailing winds blowing in the direction of vegetarianism can people find a place in their psyche for stuffed game despite a literal distaste for animals?
I say yes. The resurgence of taxidermy and the like, probably has hipster-populated coffee shops that double as “general stores” to thank for its brewing popularity. Furnished with Edison-esque light bulbs and an array of bleached antlers these once novelty-type shops, are now taking the place of useful corner stores (You know - somewhere to buy milk, and I don't mean almond or soy). I suppose It was just a matter of time before we began thinking of bits of fauna skull as decorative again. Let's face it - it's only been 4 decades or so since rumpus rooms showcased deer heads on their wood panelled walls.
We don't see it often in sustainably PC Vancouver, but there are actual shops devoted to the rare and unusual natural sciences. Save for museums and those strategic antlers or lacquered swordfish hovering over the latest trendy watering hole, we don't often see a concentration of biological odds and ends. I was horrified and amused back in the early 2000's when I stumbled upon the legendary London establishment “Get Stuffed”. To this day i recall the exotic creatures that lay inside its caged doors.
On my to-do list next time I hit PAris, is the marvellously disturbing Deyrolle. It has a close to 200 year history of not only taxidermy but geological specimens and “curiosities”. Many of Deyrolle's specimens are antique - others are thoughtfully acquired. Set up as essentially a life size textbook, the specimens were originally intended to be used for educational purposes.
Thanks to Darwin and pith helmet clad hunters looking for the latest whiskered edition to their front hall, an interest in natural history took off in the late 1800's and Deyrolle was able to make a successful go at providing pedagogical specimens. And voila, there went the Dodo bird. There is a distinct difference between the cobbled together basements we are perhaps used to and a refined of a collection such as Deyrolle. Filmmakers Woody Allen and Wes Anderson have both used the establishment in and for their work.
In the late 20th century taxidermy became less and less acceptable, save for those who actually ate what they shot. This ensures hunting is not so much a sport, as it is grocery shopping – or as culinary types refer to as: nose to tail eating. Just take a glance through every second issue of national geographic. The horrors are staggering. Hunting for kicks, with the sole purpose to have something to hang your hat on was and to this day is, more than frowned upon. What you want to do with your pet ferret after he passes on is your business – lets leave the elephants out of it.
For the opposite end of the taxidermy spectrum (visit @craptaxidermy on twitter to see how the procedure can go hilariously wrong. This bizarre twitter feed reinforces the acceptability of taxidermy as a form of amusement and enjoyment)