Skip to Main Content
  • Division facilities are closed Monday, May 27.

Condition Reporting

Taxidermy

Abraded bear face.
The face of this bear suffers from severe abrasion and fur loss. This bear has been made into a rug. The damage might be from use-related wear, or it might be from opportunistic touching during exhibition.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection I-B-483

Stolen bear claws.
The bear rug is also missing many of its claws. Museum records from many decades ago indicate some of them were torn off and stolen when it was on display.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection I-B-483

Brown bear torn paws.
The paw areas on animal pelts often are brittle, torn, or otherwise damaged.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum

Pins in feet no claws.
This paw still has two pins in it from either the taxidermy process or from the way it was positioned for display. At some point, this poor creature has lost its claws.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection I-B-501

Broken antler tine.
A tine has broken off this moose antler and been retained in the labelled bag next to the trophy head. This is indicated in the condition report. It is also obvious how one of the mountain goat heads is much dirtier than the other.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection

Detached horn sheath.
The horn sheath of the mountain goat on the left has become detached, and is retained in the bag nearby.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection UA/UC-429

Dall sheep horn, delaminating.
Here is a Dall sheep horn that is worn, cracked, and delaminating at the tip. This might have been the case when the animal was still alive. This specimen’s ear looks OK, but be aware that ears are a common areas of damage on taxidermy mounts.

Photo credit: Ellen Carrlee

Dishevelled with conk.
This little bird appears to have a broken beak. Its feathers also appear disheveled. The bird is mounted on a piece of tree fungus called a “conk”.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection I-B-131

Base labels Jonas bros.
It is a curatorial decision whether the base is considered part of the object or not. Sometimes it is simply for protection and display like a picture frame, but sometimes picture frames too have historical or artistic value. If in doubt, keep the base. Labels and tags on the base or support may contain important information and should be noted and possibly kept.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection I-B-83

Cloudy crusty bad eye.
Eyes can sometimes be crusty, hazy, cracked, or damaged. This one has a hazy white accretion. On very old specimens, sometimes there is only one eye if the display was never going to show the other side.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection I-B-45

Storage wires tail.
Taxidermy birds usually have wires extending from the bottom of the feet. A storage support on a pallet that extends past the tail can help create space around a specimen in storage and reduce wear to the tail and other parts that stick out.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection I-B-364

Oily bird feet.
Waterfowl often have natural oils or grease that comes out from the feet and beak areas. These are sometimes called “labile fats.” This bird has some claw damage, possible insect grazing, and paint loss to the feet as well.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection

Missing heel projection.
The projection seen on the back of the right foot of this waterfowl is missing from the left foot. Certainly there is a technical name for that part, but you’ll have to decide whether it is best to simply describe it or risk getting lost in a rabbit hole of fascinating internet research to find the proper term. If you do find the term, include a description in plain words too, so someone in the future might be saved from your rabbit hole…

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection

Painted foot.
The paint on this eagle foot is peeling.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection I-B-493

Asbestos vs freeze dried.
This poor eagle has several issues. It has tested positive for arsenic. Pesticides are very common on taxidermy specimens, and should be assumed to be present unless records from its taxidermy process confirm it is not. Some birds and smaller animals are taxidermied via freeze-drying. If the process is not fully successful, insect infestation can devour the specimen from the inside out. The necks of many bird specimens are made with a wire to allow re-positioning of the head. This can make the bird look a bit awkward, and there is sometimes a ring of feather damage in that area. The base of this mount also has quite a bit of chipped paint.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection UA/UC-458