Taxidermy isn’t dead! The business of it, that is.
Taxidermy is the art of preserving an animal’s body through stuffing or mounting, with life like features, for display or study purposes. Breakthrough Magazine reported that Americans spent $800 million on taxidermy in 2011. In Philly, you can see taxidermy in a variety of different history and science museums. You can even find some pieces to take home for yourself! There are a few businesses around Philadelphia like The Strange and Unusual and Cloven Hoof that offer different taxidermy pieces that you can own.
Kristie Matt is the co-owner of The Strange and Unusual, and has a taxidermy business called Cloven Hoof. She has been doing taxidermy for 5 years now, and has been collecting taxidermy even longer. The cases at The Strange and Unusual feature many of her pieces from mice with wings to mounted mouse heads wearing royal crowns. She says the business is going well and it is sometimes hard to keep the cases full.
“I think there is a really peaked interest in taxidermy right now. People have become much more interested in it. It’s sort of like a renaissance movement just as there was in the victorian time. People are interested in the natural world and want to own a piece of it.”
Matt says that she is seeing more women starting to get involved in the industry. She also mentioned, in the past 10 years, she has noticed an increase of people being interested in her work and purchasing taxidermy. According to Data USA, as a specialized college, the Pennsylvania Institute of Taxidermy has the highest percentage of degrees in taxidermy in the United States. The data shows that only 10% of the PA Institute of Taxidermy are women, but that number has stay consistent from 2014 to 2015.
From antique finds to hunting trophies, taxidermy can be found in homes all over America. Kelsey Herbst is an Arcadia University student who loves taxidermy. She says she wishes she could afford more pieces to start a massive collection. She found that she loved seeing the animal taxidermy at museums, specifically a fluffy white goat that she wanted to put in her living room. She rummages through antique stops and online store to try and find pieces she can have for her collection.
“I got into it by going to antique stores and seeing the curiosities that people didn’t want anymore. It’s really just hit or miss and it’s hard to know the condition of things that are online. Now, I look through instagram and etsy.”
The Strange and Unusual is hosting a taxidermy contest on Oct. 14 in Philadelphia. Taxidermist of all skill levels are able to enter their work, and anyone 21 or older can attend. The National Taxidermy Association also hosts a taxidermy convention, competition, and trade show every year for the past 46 years. This year their convention takes place in Utah.Taxidermy is an art and an industry that started in the early 1800s, and is still prevalent today.