History of Taxidermy

Around 1900 there was a boom in large hunting trophies. Major workshops led by famous taxidermists used a range of specific preparation techniques.

One of the most famous taxidermy experts of the time was Philipp Leopold Martin (1815–1885), the inventor of the dermoplastic method (Greek: derma = skin, plastein = to shape). Other famous practitioners of this technique were Friedrich Kerz (1842–1915), Hermanus H. ter Meer (1871–1934) and Carl E. Akeley (1864–1926). Animal skins were preserved using tanning or fixing.

No history of taxidermy would be complete without the great Austrian anatomist Josef Hyrtl (1810–1894), whose beautiful works were sold around the world. Hyrtl is credited with inventing the modern corrosion technique. Thereby, the blood vessels are rinsed and injected with a liquid which dries and hardens. The tissue surrounding the vessels is then removed, leaving detailed depictions of the organs.

Today, quality demands in taxidermy differ greatly from those 200 years ago. The increasingly availability of photos and videos makes it easy to compare exhibits in museums with images of the real animals. This has led to a continuing rise in taxidermy standards. Modern exhibits are highly realistic and, unlike photos and videos, not simply copies. The most significant change has been in the materials used. Straw, hay and peat have been replaced by wood wool, PU foam and epoxy resins. New techniques such as dry-freezing have been developed, while poisons commonly used in the past such as arsenic have been removed from taxidermy processes as far as possible. However, the principle remains the same: the long-term preservation of an original object.