Taxidermy X-Rays



Pat Morris examines an X-Ray of a Platypus.

Following a period of time exploring some of the existing research and engaging with both visitors at the Rossendale Museum and members of the local community, this is our first response and contribution to the NLOB research. We wanted to take a collection of animals from the Rossendale Museum and give them an X-Ray, a slightly surreal process, given that the animal is already dead. Why do it?

For us these x-rays are beautiful images that touch on the afterlives and mortality of the animals on display, while revealing taxidermy practices and the human intervention required to construct each exhibit. I suppose it’s new light on old bones taken literally! (although most of the bones are missing)

They also offer something that nobody visiting or working at the museum has seen before, generating local interest and adding a layer of interpretation that encourages the viewer to see the displays of taxidermy from a new perspective. They remove the mystification or illusion of life, and in some cases drama, that were often aspired to by the taxidermist or collector, reminding us that we are looking at man-made artifacts using parts of dead animals, rather than true-to-life biological representations. Maybe then the question of ‘why’ people created or collected taxidermy (and why they still do) presents itself more tangibly in the space; What does the taxidermy on display reveal about human nature, social history and cultural conditions?

They also create nice little line drawings.

Some of these images will be used by the team currently tweaking the displays at the museum in response to the NLOB research, while others will be available in the form of a catalogue at the museum, and an online gallery of images. They will also be available for workshops at the museum, and included  in educational packs.

Many thanks goes to Pat Morris, a leading authority on taxidermy and author of ‘The history of taxidermy, art, science and bad taste‘, and to the Henry Moseley Manchester X-Ray Imaging Facility for making this possible. We are hoping to conduct a similar experiment with some larger animals later in the year with the help of Rapiscan, a kind of Noah’s truck, with overtones and associations surrounding immigration and transit, a potentially provocative image within both historical and contemporary contexts.


Animals all wrapped up for tomorrow’s trip to Manchester.


X-Ray images drying out at the museum on Monday.

Once we have finished digitalising and touching up all the scans we’ll let you all know where they can be viewed.

Susanne & Kaspar

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1 Comment

Filed under Meanings, Museums, Objects, The project

One response to “Taxidermy X-Rays

  1. Remember some work a whil ago where “famous” taxidermist’s mounts were xrayed… but some found not to be his technique… really useful historic research. But if you are in to taxidermy, check out BBC i-player. The Culture Show broadcast on the 10 March has Potter’s mounts and discusses them along side some modern art/taxidermy cross-overs… really good stuff… makes me want to try it again!

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