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Taxidermy was part of the 19th century interest in natural science sparked by discoveries of scientists such as Charles Darwin. It became something of a hobby as part of producing ‘cabinets of curiosities’. In the 21st century it has taken on a new life as an art form.

The State Library has some 50 items in the collection on the topic including how-to-books, magazine articles, archival documents, oral histories, motion pictures, fiction and art books dating from 1818 to 2018.

The Taxidermists at the South Australian Museum have an intriguing history with some curious stories to tell, up to the present day.  Read our story about the Tiger and the Taxidermists.

Presenters: Carolyn Spooner, Librarian, State Library of South Australia and Jo Bain, 3D Design Specialist, South Australian Museum. This presentation was recorded as part of the State Library's Live and Learn program on 16 May 2023.

Wild bird life for the Adelaide Museum (1946)

The following film from the State Library's collection shows taxidermists preparing the bodies of the birds for exhibition. Scientific examinations are being carried out by Museum staff and by the University of Adelaide researchers on live birds and on the bodies of dead birds. It also shows collecting specimens, branches, and nests from birds in the wild to study and then used for display cases at the Museum.

The film focuses on a trip to collect new specimens of Pied Cormorants, also known as Shags, living in the mangroves near Port Gawler, on 2 June 1946.


Hero image: Taxidermists in the State Library 1898, SLSA: PRG 631/2/365