New Exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Behind the scenes of the upcoming ancient civilizations exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Last year while roaming the mysterious caverns of the Milwaukee Public Museum, we noticed a full-size taxidermy camel locked away in a dark hallway. What was it doing in there? What were we missing?

It turns out we weren’t missing anything. The camel (pictured in the link) is part of a permanent exhibit under construction that will explore ancient civilizations with reconstructions of temples, Persian soldiers, recreations of priceless Egyptian treasures and King Tut. Check out some behind-the-scenes photos of the project right here.

Milwaukee’s museum is significant as Carl Akeley, the father of modern taxidermy, created the world’s first habitat diorama there in 1890.

The new ancient civilizations exhibit opens in 2015.

Carl Akeley’s Muskrat Habitat Diorama

Taxidermist Carl Akeley created the muskrats, the world's first habitat diorama, in 1890 at the Milwaukee Public Museum

I grew up in awe of the muskrat display and other astounding (and often creepy) dioramas at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Though I have made many expeditions into it’s dark, fascinating labyrinth throughout my life, it was not until I read Melissa Milgrom’s Still Life that I realized the significance of this work.

Legendary taxidermist Carl Akeley created the muskrat case in 1890 while working at the Milwaukee Public Museum. It was the world’s first habitat diorama, and went on to inspire exhibits around the world.

Muskrat taxidermy habitat diorama created by Carl Akeley at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Muskrat taxidermy habitat diorama created by Carl Akeley at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Muskrat taxidermy habitat diorama created by Carl Akeley at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Akeley eventually ended up at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. His masterpiece is the Akeley Hall of African Mammals, though he died of a fever during an expedition in the Congo before it was completed.

Bog Bodies: The Mysterious Weerdinge Men

Weerdinge men bog bodies discovered in 1904

The Weerdinge Men were uncovered by a farmer in 1904 in a peat bog in the Netherlands. They have been radiocarbon-dated to between 160 BC and 220 AD. One of the bodies has a hole in the chest through which the intestines spilled out. The cause of death for the other is unknown. It is suspected that the Weerdinge Men may have been victims of cruel punishment or ritual killing.

The lack of oxygen and unusual chemistry of the bog water kept the bodies preserved for roughly 1,980 years. After their discovery, the bodies were rolled up, wrung out, and stuffed in a box to be transported to the morgue.

Pink Pills for Pale People

Weird vintage medicine ad for Dr. William's pink pills for pale people

Dr. William’s Pink Pills for Pale People, 1890