We are sort of unique in the natural world with respect to having practices that we engage in that are uniquely human. The idea of seeing animalsfor example, squirrelsthat are not particularly held in high esteem do those activities that are in our exclusive domain is a disruptive thing to be able to see. I think thats what really generates the intrigue. Sure, the thought of preserving dead animals and projecting human activities on them for the sake of entertainment and art probably sounds disturbing, but keep in mind that taxidermy was very much an accepted part of 19th-century culture. Taxidermy at the time when [Potter] was growing up was just kind of part of what people did, Joanna Ebenstein, co-founder of the Morbid Anatomy Museum told me over the phone, explaining that it was a subject routinely featured in womens magazines (imagine if Cosmo had a section on taxidermy). Taxidermy arguably reached its height in the Victorian era in terms of popularity, curator Powe told me over the phone. There was, I think, a desire in that era to sort of capture nature and obviously this was consistent with a period of exploration, of wanting, if you were well to-do in that era, to appear worldly and knowledgeable about the natural world. As much as it was a way to showcase mans simultaneous appreciation for and conquest of nature, taxidermy was also just an everyday hobby. No Victorian-era person would bat a lash at the fact that this completely normal pursuit involved dead animals. [It was] seen as genteel, a craft that anybody could do, and it wasnt seen as perverse or grotesque or morbid the way that it is seen today, Ebenstein explained. And looking at the works of Walter Potter, its not a stretch of the imagination to see how some carefully positioned rodents and felines could be earnestly charming and droll. Isha Aran. Of course, neither Potters prolific career nor the eerily captivating humanity of his pieces necessarily mean that the quality of the taxidermy itself is, um, excellent.
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