The Afterlives of Animals: A Museum Menagerie
In the quiet halls of the natural history museum, there are some creatures still alive with stories, whose personalities refuse to be relegated to the dusty corners of an exhibit. The fame of these beasts during their lifetimes has given them an iconic status in death. More than just museum specimens, these animals have attained a second life as historical and cultural records.
This collection of essays – from a broad array of contributors, including anthropologists, curators, fine artists, geographers, historians, and journalists – comprises short "biographies" of a number of famous taxidermized animals. Each essay traces the life, death, and museum "afterlife" of a specific creature, illuminating the overlooked role of the dead beast in the modern human-animal encounter through practices as disparate as hunting and zookeeping. The contributors offer fresh examinations of the many levels at which humans engage with other animals, especially those that function as both natural and cultural phenomena, including Queen Charlotte's pet zebra, Maharajah the elephant, and Balto the sled dog, among others.
Readers curious about the enduring fascination with animals who have attained these strange afterlives will be drawn to the individual narratives within each essay, while learning more about the scientific, cultural, and museological contexts of each subject. Ranging from autobiographical to analytical, the contributors' varying styles make this delightful book a true menagerie.
"This collection addresses an intriguing, important, and novel theme: the biographies of animals through their lives but especially after their deaths, primarily as museum specimens. This book is very original, well researched, and thought-provoking. The diverse backgrounds of the authors prove to be a real strength. From discussions of specific taxidermic practices to questions of social and cultural contexts, the reader is treated to a wealth of different insights."
- Richard W. Burkhardt, University of Illinois, author of Patterns of Behavior: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Foundation of Ethology
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