University Museums

Title: Taxidermy case with specimens
Name: Taxidermy case with specimens
Date: 1870-1880
Dimensions: 47 3/4 × 31 × 15 in. (121.3 × 78.7 × 38.1 cm)
Marks: None.
Classification: Furniture
Credit Line: Gift of Lucy and Richard Graeme. In the Farm House Museum Collection, Farm House Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: 77.50.2
More Information
Two highly unique objects in the Farm House Museum are the taxidermy display cases. Though the practice appears macabre to many modern viewers, taxidermy--the art of preserving and displaying the skins of dead animals--was a popular exhibition of artistic skill and natural aesthetic in the Victorian era. Taxidermy was one way for a Victorian household to showcase its wealth and provide an educational display of local ecology.

Perhaps surprisingly, Victorian-era taxidermy was an activity largely pursued by women. Both of the displays in the Farm House Museum were created and sold by Lucy B. Kimball in the 1870s. According to an 1860 publication of Art Recreations, women completed the entire taxidermy process, first removing the entrails and skin of the specimen, then using arsenic as a preserving agent on the skin, and finally using wire and wool to recreate the animal's shape.