Repair work: surfacing the geographies of dead animals

Merle Patchett, Kate Foster

Abstract


An artist and a geographer asked the same question: what is a zoological specimen and how can it be used? Considerable attention has been paid to the ‘finished’ form and display of taxidermy specimens inside cabinets, behind glass – in other words to their representation. We challenge the priority given to representation by getting under the skin and behind-the-scenes to show how specimens have been entangled ‘in life’ as well as how we have creatively taken part in their ‘afterlives’. These efforts are aligned with work in cultural geography seeking to counteract ‘deadening effects’ in an active world (Thrift and Dewsbury 2000), and stay alive to the ‘more-than-representational’ aspects of life (Lorimer 2005). The paper documents two of our experimental attempts to revive and repair zoological specimens and collections, work which was underlain by observations of taxidermy practice. First we show how the creation of a ‘webarchive’ offered an expanded repertoire of interpretation and engagement for an extremely rare zoological specimen. Secondly, we show how a temporary exhibition in a zoology museum highlighted the transformative potential of crossdisciplinary efforts to re-present zoological material.


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Copyright (c) 2015 Merle Patchett, Kate Foster

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360