A teddy bear from 1905, a duchess’s stuffed Maltese terrier and pair of falcons: all present in Elmbridge Museum’s latest exhibition.
Taxing Nature is a new display for Elmbridge Museum which rethinks the museum’s natural history collection. Alongside and among these professionally stuffed and mounted animals are toys, agricultural equipment and amateur examples of the taxidermy craft.
The comparison of a stuffed domestic hen to a finely crafted, playful German toy of the same animal makes one wonder about the relationships we have with animals and how we mediate these relationships.
Taxing Nature traces two distinct, yet overlapping, narratives – the domestic and the museological – to question how the contributed and continue to influence each other as humans continue to collect and categorize animals. The exhibition can be read in many different ways, with references to ubanization, zoological practices, taxonomies, the history of museum displays and John Berger’s influential essay ‘Why Look at Animals?’ all being present.
Below is a selection of animals which have been, appropriately, grouped together. The exhibition was held in the Civic Centre in Esher – the Borough’s main civic building and home to Elmbridge Museum’s largest permanent display case.