Questionable Taxidermy

As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently stranded in visiting New England. So far, I have identified two themes: 1) no good coffee, anywhere and 2.) questionable taxidermy specimens, EVERYWHERE.

See what I mean?

"whaling museum"

@ The New Bedford Whaling Museum

I accidentally backed up into this display case, turned around, and immediately screamed saw this at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which is also the home of this not-so-stellar Steller’s Sea Cow, of which I am inexplicably fond — perhaps because it wears an expression that puts me in mind of my brother’s golden retriver, Brody.*

"whaling museum taxidermy"

Steller’s Sea Cow @ The New Bedford Whaling Museum

But the New Bedford Whaling Museum — while without institutional peer when it comes to whale skeletons, model ships, and scrimshaw** — is NOT the creepy taxidermy capital of New England.

That honor must certainly belong to the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium at Roger Williams Park, in Providence.

While the majority of the displays are fairly straightforward —

"roger williams museum taxidermy"

Dead Aviary @ The Roger Williams Park Museum

"taxidermy trio"

Not Cool Enough for the Main Display Case @ RWPM

"we're owl exterminators"

Hedwig and the Angry (60-)Inch (Wingspan) @ RWPM

"white owl"

They’re Owl Exterminators! @ RWPM

— this one is not.

Rather, this one is a life-sized diorama of how wrong it might go if you were to invite a brown bear into your lavishly furnished Victorian parlor.

"stuffed bear"


Oh, and did I mention the lion cubs? The ones that were killed alongside their mother, stuffed, and then posed, happy families-style, so that it looks like they’re nursing?

"lion cub taxidermy"

Killing kittens FOR SCIENCE! @RWPM

This one receives an honorable mention for making me feel sad and creeped out, as opposed to just creeped out.

However, I really think the grand prize goes to this display:

"turtle with obelisk"

Turtle With Obelisk Attached @ RWPM

If you said, “Wait, is that an angry turtle with a small obelisk fused to its shell?” I would respond, “Why, yes! That is exactly what it is!”

Numerous signs posted throughout the museum assured us that these specimens, though they might disgust the modern observer, were essential to science. We would, they insist, know nothing about these creatures had someone not shot, stuffed, and mounted them. They were killing these birds to save them, you see!

So that future generations could be enthralled by the Passenger Pigeon. Or the Great Auk. Or the Carolina Parakeet. Or the Labrador Duck. Or…well, you get the point. 


*The dog’s legal name is Marcus Brody, because — as my brother explains — his canine brainpower is such that he “gets lost in his own museum.”
**Did you know? A person who makes scrimshaw is known as a scrimshander. And that is your vocabulary lesson for the day.
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3 thoughts on “Questionable Taxidermy

  1. JennyOH says:

    The Dublin Museum of Natural History will always hold a place in my heart for creepiest taxidermy, partly because of the 12 foot tall giant deer skeletons that loom over you as soon as you enter, and partly because it is impossible (I checked) to walk down any of its (incredibly narrow) aisles without passing directly under a mangy bison head or similar.

    I love you for the Hedwig reference 😀

  2. andthisiswhyiwilldiealonesurroundedbycats says:

    The first one!! The seal?! (It is a seal..right?) absolutely terrifying facial expression.

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