American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
The Extreme Mammals exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, explores the startling diversity of our closest genetic relatives. Before Extreme Mammals was ready for its debut, many of the mammal specimens required restoration.
Wildlife Preservations restored sixteen animals for the exhibit, including some of the oldest and rarest taxidermy specimens in the museum's vast collection. These mammals included koalas, echidnas, proboscis monkeys, a red howler monkey, a two-toed sloth mother and her young, a pangolin, a platypus, a spring hare, a mouse opossum, and a river otter. The restorations ranged from simple cleaning to major reconstruction.
Wildlife Preservations repaired many of the specimens' broken limbs and armatures by reinforcing them with steel or epoxy to better withstand the rigors of future travel. Additional durability was gained by Wildlife Preservations' fabrication of new, reinforced branches and land forms for many of the animals.
Wildlife Preservations was also commissioned to repair one of the museum's oldest and most prized pieces. The 140-year-old rough-faced lemur, believed to be one of the original acquisitions in the museum's collection, was in surprisingly good condition for its age; however, the lemur, originally produced by Ward's Natural Science, was in desperate need of a thorough cleaning. It also had distorted facial features, which were first relaxed and then corrected by re-sculpting. This included fitting the animal with a more scientifically accurate nose. The original glass eyes were replaced with a custom painted set of the proper size and color. The final step of the restoration incorporated hair replacement and painting.
One of the most challenging tasks was securing the lemur to its new branch support. Most of the museum specimens had lengths of steel protruding from the underside of their feet to be used as aids when attaching the animal to its habitat. This particular piece was hastily removed from its original support, leaving only small stubs of wire protruding. The soft, "wrapped body" method used to mount this animal leaves the appendages with a certain amount of flexibility, so it became vital that the lemur was securely attached to the new branch. Wildlife Preservation's master metal-smith was able to maneuver pieces of metal in-between the toes of the primate. The wire was then strategically welded to the armature of the new branch. This permanently secured the specimen to its base without damaging it or transferring excessive, potentially destructive amounts of heat to it.
This project presented Wildlife Preservations with an opportunity to repair one of the rarest taxidermy specimens in the world. The thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian wolf or Tasmanian tiger, went extinct in 1936. Only twelve taxidermy specimens exist in the world. The two specimens in the United States belong to The American Museum of Natural History. In addition to trusting George Dante with the restoration of one of these invaluable thylacines, they allowed the work to be done in the studio of Wildlife Preservations. According to Steve Quinn, Senior Project Manager at The American Museum of Natural History, the museum would not have allowed any other person to remove such a rare specimen from the premises.
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