The French have a funny term for stuffed animals: Animaux naturalisés. To foreigners it sounds very paradoxical that such naturalisation of a dead animal can bring any suggestion of life but rather serve as reminder of its death. So, in brief, we kill and stuff animals, only to show how they looked when they were alive.
What was obvious before, became evident now: stuffing animals are like zoos, - a disputable practice. With the modern technologies, we do not need to pretend that our knowledge depends upon such fragile reminders. There is no valid excuse to kill nor to retain the carcass embalmed. An animal turned into a museum object by taxidermy is quite a ridiculous way to show respect or even curiosity. Besides, one should be aware that museums may serve as an alibi to millions of people who make or buy taxidermic items.
But, any rule may have exceptions. An article that follows looked to me like a set of good arguments to speculate upon the nature of museums and of public memory. Namely, I strongly believe that the ability to bring judgement upon nuanced and well balanced insight is a proof of professionalism.
The Cat is Out of the Bag!
Jennifer Gallichan, 17 March 2017A
New Big Cat for Amgueddfa Cymru
We are very pleased to announce that we have a new arrival! Bryn the Sumatran Tiger.Bryn the Sumatran TigerHe spent his life at The Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay and was one of its most iconic residents. In his lifetime he gave pleasure to all of the zoo’s visitors, helping to raise the profile of the plight of his species, as Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered. He had a relaxed and amiable personality and so was a key part of The Welsh Mountain Zoo’s 'Keeper for the Day' and 'Animal Encounter' experiences. He sadly died of natural causes in August 2016 at the grand age of 17, which is pretty good for a tiger. He has been portrayed in a natural walking position as if prowling through the jungle looking for prey. He certainly gave our security staff a few frights when he arrived! Standing by him you get a real feeling of the beauty and power of these amazing animals.
But why have a Sumatran Tiger in a Welsh museum? Why have stuffed animals at all? This is a really common question that we are asked at the museum. Museums play an important role as storehouses for biodiversity, keeping a record of a species for posterity. For example we have extinct animals like the Tasmanian Wolf and Great Auk in our collections, we even have a Dodo skeleton. With wild Sumatran tiger numbers as low as they are, it is pertinent now more than ever, to keep a record of this species.
Bryn will feature at our International Tiger Day on July 29th 2017, so you will have the opportunity to come and see this enigmatic creature up close. So come along, take part in some activities, learn more about what museums do with their collections and what you can do to help tigers like Bryn get off the endangered list!