Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Sculpture with skin

Jo Bain, South Australian Museum’s resident taxidermist at work. Photo: Cathy Brooks.

Mike Ladd, Sculpture with skin: inside the taxidermist’s workshop, Radio National website, 29 June 2015

From installation art to fashionable bar decorations, taxidermy is experiencing a revival. Mike Ladd visits Jo Bain, the South Australian Museum’s resident taxidermist, who explains his passion for preserving dead creatures in a way that shows their natural power and beauty. For Bain, taxidermy isn’t just stuffing dead animals; it’s an art form.

When I first walk into Jo Bain’s basement workshop, he apologises for the rank smell coming from his fridge. ‘Everyone thinks dolphins are lovely’ he says, ‘but I hate them. If one goes into the freezer, the freezer forever smells like dolphins.’

Later on, we visit the freezer itself, if only briefly. It’s minus 25 in there and we’re wearing T-shirts. On the way in he tells me not to lick anything—I hadn’t been planning on it.

When the door opens I come face to face with a whole cassowary, its frozen dinosaur claws thrusting out from a great pile of glossy black feathers. High on another shelf, carefully wrapped up, is a very famous bird—Adelaide Zoo’s Alexander the flamingo. Up until a year ago he was the oldest flamingo in the world at 83 (at the very least).

Bain is a bit nervous about preserving Alexander. He was a much-loved and singular bird, with his wrinkled face, needle-thin legs and arthritic ankles. Bain wants to get him exactly right; he’s waiting for a dead ibis to come in so he can practise the advanced techniques he wants to apply to Alexander. As Bain says, with a unique and famous bird like that ‘you don’t want to mess it up, because there are no makeovers’.

Read more

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. No claim is made as to the accuracy or authenticity of the content of the website. The Council of Australasian Museum Directors does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) which is provided on this website. The information on our website is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the site undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content. No responsibility is taken for any information or services which may appear on any linked web sites. Hostgator.
.