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Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy

The Death and Burial of Cock Robin by Walter Potter
The Death and Burial of Cock Robin by Walter Potter

When Victorian-era English taxidermist Walter Potter’s tiny museum of his own personal anthropomorphic creations was auctioned off in 2003 (read about it in Still Life by Melissa Milgrom) his whimsical collection was dispersed across the globe despite a $1 million bid from artist Damien Hirst to keep the collection together.

Many key pieces of Potter’s work were exhibited by collector Sir Peter Blake in 2010 at London’s Museum of Everything, drawing 30,000 visitors in six weeks.

Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy showcases photos of some of Potter’s best-loved work all in one place, and might be the only way they will ever be seen together again.

The book will also be accompanied by a documentary called “Where Kittens Wed and Birds Lament” directed by Ronni Thomas:

There was also a 1965 film about Potter’s work called Crazy Taxidermy Museum – Stuffed Animals in Costumes.

Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy

Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy by Melissa MilgromStill Life is an engaging journey into the mysterious and often misunderstood world of taxidermy.

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.