Between the Scientific Revolution and the First World War, the preserved animal body became one of the most prominent media of the European encounter with other global regions and the natural world. Animal objects mattered in a wide range of contexts and to men and women of widely differing social rank. Before long-distance travel and television documentaries acquainted European audiences with the fauna of their own countryside and far-away global regions, preserved animals familiarized Europeans with the look—and feel—of reclusive animals, those which did not survive the journey to Europe alive or ones that had already died out. Yet "preservation," in fact, represents a fundamental misnomer. As a result of advances in preservation techniques in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, animal bodies became malleable almost at will. The articles in this special issue focus on this malleability of these animal objects and their openness to reinterpretation to explain why preservation equally suited the culture of gentlemanly anatomy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as it did the museums, shop-windows, boudoirs, and public spaces of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The combination of archival methods in conjunction with the description of surviving specimens can illuminate much about their meaning and the changes these meanings underwent over time. Therefore, the serious assessment of the preserved animal body—as a medium; as a focus of collections; and as a material link to non-European cultures, natural environments, and animal aesthetics—adds considerably to the social and cultural history of European expansion, science, and popular culture.


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pp. 1027-1032
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