The Great Exhibition, which took place in Hyde Park, London, in 1851, included a number of taxidermy exhibits. Hermann Ploucquet, a German taxidermist, exhibited anthropomorphic taxidermy: animals engaged in human activity. The Morning Chronicle of August 12, 1851 noted that Ploucquet’s exhibits were “one of the most crowded points of the Exhibition.” The Great Exhibition, which attracted some six million visitors, is generally held to be the turning point for taxidermy; many of the displays were of a high technical standard and utilized great artistry in scenes and tableaux that, compared to the simply posed species on display in museums, provoked great excitement. Queen Victoria recorded in her diary that his work was “marvelous.”
Zoologist and conservationist William Temple Hornaday (1854 – 1937) was another mover and shaker in the world of taxidermy. He worked for Ward’s Natural Science Establishment, which supplied taxidermy specimens to museums. One specimen hunting trip resulted in a display of two orangutans, named The Fight in the Tree-Tops, after which he was appointed chief taxidermist at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. He heard that the American bison were being decimated and, though troubled by the morality of the exercise, went to Montana to hunt for several specimens. Hornaday was so appalled by the skeletal remains of so many slaughtered bison that he highlighted their plight, and his work resulted in the creation of federally protected bison ranges in the American north-west. His famous bison display can today be seen at The Museum of The Northern Great Plains in Fort Benton, Montana.
This could be the oldest taxidermised deer in the world on display at the Danish Museum of Hunting and Forestry in Hørsholm. The stag is apparently over 300 years old and was owned/killed? by King Frederik IV (1671-1730). Crazier still, researchers have x-rayed the ancient beast to determine exactly how it was put together. The answer? A ridiculous number of pins.
If you define taxidermy strictly as the preservation of animal remains, then Gunther von Hagens might not qualify. Even so, the famed artist of Body Worlds has done amazing work when it comes to the preservation of human remains in artistic poses.