"Bringing Death Back to Life" in NSM Thailand Jan 21, 2022
"Bringing Death Back to Life" "Hello. I’m calling to tell you that our 4-metre-long crocodile just died because of eating junk. Do you want to take its body to your museum?" This was the call from a veterinarian of a crocodile farm. Does your museum/centre = receive a phone call like that? My name is Nopparat Thepthepa. My current position is the Director of the Office of Natural Science Research at the National Science Museum, Thailand (NSM). Part of the mission of NSM is to enhance awareness in preserving the environment so the work of this unit is very important. My colleagues are natural science researchers in different fields, and we are very keen in doing research on natural science. Many new species are discovered from field research. We then develop the interesting research findings into different activities and exhibitions. This unit curates the Natural History Museum and the Rama 9 Museum of NSM. The work includes services of reference collection gathering from the work of our field researchers. In addition, we also preserve the skin of dead animals with the age-old technique called “taxidermy” for display in our exhibition.
Taxidermy is preserving an animal, mainly stuffing its skin and mounting it in lifelike postures. Taxidermist must study the body structure of different animals and their living posture. They then craft the new body by using materials that are suitable for each animal structure. Therefore, it is a mix between art and science and the finished workpiece makes the dead animal look like it is frozen in time. NSM started the taxidermy project since 2010. To date, we have more than 400 animals preserved with taxidermy techniques in different sizes, and the biggest one is an elephant. We also developed taxidermist training courses and open them to the public every year. We found that animals preserved by taxidermy are very powerful in gaining the attention of our visitors. Currently, we are preparing a video that teaches how to do taxidermy step by step in Thai with English subtitles. I would like to invite the ASPAC members, especially the one who work on or have experience with taxidermy, to share your techniques and cooperate with us in taxidermy preservation. For example, in 2010, we invited Mr. Eirik Granvist from the Natural History Museum in Finland to contribute his expertise to our staff and that was the significant initial step that strengthen the taxidermy work of NSM. Moreover, we trained the staff of Nakhon Ratshasima Zoo to be able to preserve the dead animals and display them to their visitors. Previously, the dead bodies would be burnt or buried. Nowadays, if the body is proved to be safe from spreading disease, staff will do taxidermy preservation and display them to visitors. Therefore, it is educational value added to their resources. Through cooperation with both private and government zoos in Thailand, when animals die, they are donated to NSM for taxidermy preservation and that gradually increased the number of workpieces in our collection.
Lastly, I would also like to recommend to those of you who might not recognise taxidermy workpieces. Next time when you visit the Natural History Museum, please try to search for them, have a closer look and appreciate their beauty.. ***
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