The Colin McEnroe Show
6:00 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Filling You In On the World of Taxidermy

A taxidermied squirrel at the Institute Library in New Haven.
A taxidermied squirrel at the Institute Library in New Haven.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Taxidermy stops time. Creatures are born, they live they die, they decay into dust. But taxidermy catches the wolf or the woodpecker in the middle of the cycle and keeps it there. That's why there's something unsettling and a little creepy about taxidermy. Never forget, the most memorable taxidermist in cinema history was Norman Bates.

But taxidermy arises from a welter of motives: Natural history, sentimentality, playfulness, horror... We may mount and preserve anything from an extinct species including Martha, the last passenger pigeon, to a beloved pet, to a freakish curiosity like a two-headed calf or an albino zebra. In the world of art, vast liberties are taken - fraudulent hybrid creatures are invented like the jackrabbit with antelope horns, and creatures are twisted into anthropomorphic poses, like the preserved fox in a dress, sitting on a swing.

What exactly is taxidermy, and the difference between "traditional" and "rogue" taxidermy? Who needs stuffed and mounted animals anymore? What are the laws regulating which animals can be worked with and which can't? What does taxidermy say about our relationships to animals, to nature?

We'll fill you in (pun intended) on this show with authors, artists, and experts.

Questions? Comments? Write below, email Colin@wnpr.org, or tweet @wnprcolin.

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