Inside Out: Hidden Art in Natural History Collections lets you see beyond the surface of our taxidermy collections. This intriguing exhibit is a collaboration between the Fairbanks Museum and Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) that peels away our surface understanding of objects to reveal what's inside. This unusual concept combines radiographs of some of our oldest and most mysterious taxidermy with contemporary portraits of the same mount. What’s revealed are the bones, wires, pins, and human touch in mounts created by different taxidermists using different equipment to achieve life-like representations.
“We were also curious about what’s inside shells, ‘wet’ specimens preserved in formaldehyde, and some dried seahorses – what lies beneath these opaque surfaces?” says Harris. To solve the mysteries these collections hold, the Fairbanks Museum worked with the digital radiography team at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital.
“It’s really important for us to support and collaborate with community institutions such as the Fairbanks Museum,” NVRH Director of Diagnostic Imaging Jackie Zaun said. “These kinds of community partnerships are what make the Northeast Kingdom, and St. Johnsbury in particular, so unique. Plus, it was just really fun to see what was inside of a platypus from 1890!”
These x-rays show hidden patterns and designs. “The opportunity to peel away the surface gave us more than we expected,” says Anna Rubin, director of external relations. “These images would have been impossible during the Victorian era when many of the pieces were collected, and they reveal the same wonder at nature’s beauty that Franklin Fairbanks talked about when he first opened the Fairbanks Museum.”
The museum’s exhibit team worked with photographer and graphic designer Craig Harrison to create lenticular prints that allow you to see both inside and out at the same time! This exhibit is part of a statewide collaboration among 36 museums and galleries on the theme 2020 Vision: Seeing the World Through Technology, a statewide initiative of the Vermont Curators Group.
The Vermont Curators Group is a network of museums, galleries, and cultural centers specializing in fine art, history, science, and craft. 2020 Vision will push the boundaries of what it means to have conversations about technology, innovation, and culture in Vermont. This timely theme juxtaposes ideas of traditional Yankee ingenuity with investigations of visibility and expression that are relevant to our present day. Gillian Sewake of the Vermont Curators Group comments the Inside Out exhibit is “an absolutely spot-on interpretation of ‘seeing the world through technology’ theme.”
This echidna was one of the early mammal mounts created by William Balch for Franklin Fairbanks. Balch was a talented photographer and naturalist who created many of the Museum's core displays, including the full-habitat dioramas. He also brought the enormous moose from Nova Scotia to be put on display in St. Johnsbury! His careful mounts mimic life-like poses that continue to charm guests.
This exhibit will be on view through 2021.