22 Nov Possum in the house
The skinned carcass is studied, drawn and measured taking special note of muscles, again to assist in the reconstruction process.
The UNE Natural History Museum’s new possum has been left half completed by Alison Douglas, the taxidermist from Queensland Museum, so that we can see the intricate details of the taxidermy.
Taxidermy is a very specialised skill and the art of preserving the skin, skeleton and shape together with the fur, feathers or scales of an animal to bring them back to life is quite complex.
Alison first takes measurements of the body which include the length, breadth and depth of the tail, head and other body parts. Photographs are also taken which helps in the reconstruction process, and to ensure skin colours which may fade in the drying process, can be recreated.
The skinned carcass is studied, drawn and measured taking special note of muscles, again to assist in the reconstruction process. The skin is preserved via a tanning process.
Using the measurements, photographs and sketches, a wire frame just smaller than the body size is made. The body form and muscle tone are built up over the frame using sisal and polyester fibre bound tightly with strong thread. This continues until the original body shape is replicated. The skull is cast or a replica carved and glass eyes set into place.
The tanned skin is then fitted back over the fabricated skull and body form, then glued and pinned in place, taking meticulous care with eyes, ears, nose and whiskers. It is then dried over several weeks.
The possum in the museum is a work of art with the inner details usually hidden from sight. With our UNE possum, you can clearly see how Alison has beautifully recreated the body structure and used the sisal, fibre and thread to form and hold the shape of the possum. We hope you enjoy viewing Alison’s meticulous handiwork next time you visit.
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