Artist Richard Ross looks at the display and storage of animals in galleries around the world in his photographic series “Museology”.
Dioramic displays of animals shown in their natural environment were the creation of American Carl Ackley, they showed animals encased in their own environments such as Rhinoceros upon sand and birds perched on the branches of specially built trees. These purpose built scenes resonated a meaning with the creatures displayed as the animals seemed completely real and at home in their false setting, somehow undisturbed by the endless parade of visitors who walked past the glass.
The animal in its own environment was a distinct chance from the history of taxidermy display prior to Carl Ackley’s creations. Now many of these specimens are in need of repair and have been neglected due to the new age of education which does not require a setting that would never otherwise be seen to be created – the invention of television. Many museums have removed their panoramas and replaced them with as many specimens and they can fit into cases for those who are interested enough to come and see them in the flesh.
Ross’ selection of photographs taken in 1977 form a framework for a contemporary look at how we view the animal within a contextual landscape; a current world may be looking more at images within environment in the arena of a computer and filmic world, but as we enter a world of computer visualization, a sense of loss for these historical displays must be noted. Some of the photographs show how taxidermy has been stored away from the public gaze for want of repair or because it has been replaced by something more exciting for a newer audience to view. Perhaps unintended by the artist at the time, the images as a series give a sense of sadness and loss for the beauty of craftsmanship and care that has gone into the pieces which may never see the light of day again.