Author Melissa Milgrom weaves a fascinating portrait of Carl Akeley, the biologist and taxidermist who pioneered the modern museum habitat diorama, beginning with the muskrat habitat group for the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1890 and ending with his grand vision, the Hall of African Mammals in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Also represented in Still Life are contemporary craftsman recreating endangered or extinct species for the World Taxidermy Championship with painstaking attention to detail, and the more artistic side, including the woman who prepares bizarre and realistic mounts for use in the art of Damien Hirst.
Still Life is ridiculously compelling from beginning to end, changing the view of taxidermists from creepy Norman Bates types to passionate artisans, daring explorers and mad geniuses. My fascination with taxidermy always stemmed from the dark and taboo nature of the craft, but now I appreciate it from an entirely new perspective.
Odd Fact: The Recreations category at the World Taxidermy Championship is reserved for mounts crafted from anything but the species it is supposed to represent.
Get Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy right here.