Taxidermy – a true passion at the Museum of Natural History

IMG_2239

A beloved pet. He greets you at the door, and my goodness it takes a while before one realises he is no longer of this mortal coil.

Taxidermy – so hot right now. However, for Michael Buzza this fashion was 40 years or more in the making. He is the owner of the Museum of Natural History situated in the historic township of Guildford, West Australia. I have been there numerous times myself. A few times I marched up to the door only to find it closed. Once because they had just received a huge bullock that needed attention. Other times, for no apparent reason, but that it is a unique and independent institution which behaves according to its own needs.

IMG_2230

Mont Blanc – re-used is 100% recycled.

The main thing I love about this museum is that it is an obvious exercise in individual passion, plus skill. This is one of the most exhilarating aspects of this museum. Mr Buzza’s attention to the objects of his expertise reveals his respect for the nature of his subjects. There are narratives, there is attention to detail in the natural environment of the creature, there is beauty. It is a most moving aspect of the museum, the skill combined with the knowledge, love and respect that the owner has towards the protagonists of the modest museum.  Mr Buzza’s passion is genuine. So, albeit a relatively small space, the impact is huge and the rewards to the visitor magnificent.

The Museum is based in the old Guildford Theatre, thereby the museum’s presence also acts as a wonderful preservation of 19th century architecture. The building itself is a most apt setting for the menagerie of fauna inside. One only has to look up, and up to see more specimens – a floating wall of fish species, snakes, Australian natives, a tiger, strangely some fibreglass dinosaurs – it is an eclectic placement of characters, so in keeping with a Victorian salon sensibility. There is a sitting area (much like my 1970s era family loungeroom) to watch informative videos of Mr Buzza in action, and old media snippets. There is a library to peruse. There are cabinets and drawers full of curious specimens. Mr Buzza speaks of his childhood on the farm, and at the age of 10 his interest in taxidermy was sparked. I don’t believe this childhood curiosity and wonder for the natural world ever left the taxidermist, it fuels his collecting style.

Here at the Museum of Love and Mortality we are true believers in supporting the  authentic experience. This is Australia’s most experienced taxidermist, and he has allowed his personal collection to be viewed by us, the humble public. This is a passionate collector – so when next in Perth, go and see.

Museum of Natural History
The Old Guildford Theatre
131 James Street
Guildford, Perth, West Australia
Entry: $5 and worth it

IMG_2238

You really can find a book for everything. Start up tips.

Save Our Skulls: The Mütter Museum’s unique call to alms

We came across this wonderful initiative by the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and had to share it with you. A part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia the Mütter Museum is a specialty museum dedicated to medical history. The collection of antique medical instruments, anatomical specimens, including human bodies and oddities, and wax models began in 1858 with a major donation by Dr Thomas Dent Mütter to further education in medicine.

hyrtlsos-660x403

The Hyrtl collection. Image: The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

The museum is home to the Hyrtl skull collection. Josef Hyrtl (1810-1894) was a highly successful and internationally acclaimed Austrian anatomist. His collection of skulls was used for his own research and teachings, including amassing data to debunk the popular 19th century science of Phrenology. However, this amazing collection of skulls is under threat…from vibration! The Mütter Museum need to conserve each skull and remount them on vibration absorbing mounts to prevent future damage by the vibrations of visitors walking past them. This is where the Save our Skulls campaign comes in.

So for US$200 you could adopt (for a 12 month period) the cranium of Domenico Vanello, the 50 year old Austrian man who died in Venice of ascites (no, we didn’t know what that was either – so you see the collection is still teaching people today!); or the Swiss 48 year old Mason Soligo Domenico who died in Vienna in 1872 from diptheria; or the poor young Franz Braun who at 13 years of age committed suicide by hanging after his crime of theft had been discovered. There are a few lady craniums available for adoption still as well, like the lovely Eva Radie, the Catholic maidservant from Croatia who sadly died of unknown causes at the young age of 21.

We are saving our pennies to adopt one on behalf of MOLAM, so we’ll be sure to post a photo of it when we do.

Go on, we know you want to see your name officially mounted next to a human skull sitting in a curious museum with a German name; do your bit for history and help conserve this important collection.