This week, it’s half-term at the museum and we’ve been busy with families visiting. I’ve been enchanted by many small faces and their enthusiasm to learn about Florence Nightingale. It took me back to my childhood and my first trip to a museum, Bristol museum I think. I vividly recall a cluster of us gathered around an exhibit of a stuffed monkey. I’d never heard of taxidermy before or seen anything dead. It seems I was so fascinated with this monkey, that I brought a postcard. This postcard was taken home and stuck into a scrapbook. I don’t have my scrapbook any more but I did come across another picture of stuffed animals.
This is an example of ‘anthropomorphic tableaux taxidermy’ from ‘Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy’. A very popular form of taxidermy during the Victorian era. Much more fascinating than my monkey.
We have our own example of taxidermy in the museum, Florence Nightingale’s pet owl. According to a book written about the pet, ‘Life and Death of Athena, an owlet from the Parthenon’ the owl was born, ‘(as nearly as can be ascertained) on the fifth of June 1850’ and died shortly before Florence left for the Crimea. As Florence held the dead owl in her hands, she’s quoted as saying; “poor little beastie, it was odd how much I loved you”. Parthenope wrote and illustrated the book as a consolation for her sister.
However, my poem this week isn’t about Taxidermy;
A much-worn hat is left behind
With a rim of grime
Abandoned or mislaid
Can’t help but notice
It’s been turned inside out
and has no name.