As A Career
Natural History Taxidermists Scotland
Hours: Monday - Friday 8.30am - 5pm GMT
- About the Work
- Taxidermists reconstruct
deceased animals, birds, mammals and fish for museums or private
individuals. These specimens are usually road casualties or sporting
trophies. This is done by removing the animal's skin, tanning
or preserving it, and then mounting it onto a sculpted model.
- A taxidermist would first
study animals in the wild or in captivity so that they can understand
the animal's behaviour and ultimately gather information and
ideas for their work. This involves some drawing and sketching
skills and an understanding of animal anatomy.
- Animals are skinned using
intricate skinning techniques, and a 'strong constitution' is
required. The skins are then 'tanned' to preserve them usually
using modern tanning techniques, which involves 'fleshing' the
hide. A reasonable degree of strength and stamina is required
for the processing of large game skins.
A taxidermist will then sculpt a model using the animal's body
as reference. This is done using traditional modelling techniques,
employing a wire armature, which is covered in modelling material
usually wood wool then finally sculpted with papier-mache and
- Some mounts are also prepared
using fibreglass moulds and modern polyurethane materials.
- Once dry the mounts may
need re-colouring of any 'flesh' areas and a good colour vision
would be required.
- Mounts are often set within
'natural habit' displays, which usually consist of woodland debris
being collected and dried, preserved or modelled for use. Artificial
items such as rocks, tree trunks etc are also constructed using
modern modelling and moulding techniques. Again a good knowledge
of an animals living habitat is required.
Taxidermists usually spend their entire day in the workshop.
Either working on their own for sometime or working within small
groups. In larger firms individuals may be required for specific
jobs and these could range from a skinner & tanner, model
maker to a painter & finisher.
- Knowledge of the tanning
industry, animal anatomy or modelling/sculpting techniques may
help individuals secure a part time job, which could lead to
full time employment.
- Health and safety issues
within the industry are usually the exposure to preserving/tanning
chemicals and possible sensitisation to bird feathers and dust.
Most professional firms work from 'technical plants,' and along
with museums are aware of these issues.
- Entry into the Industry
- There are no nationally
recognised requirements for entry into a commercial taxidermy
firm, however for entry to a 'junior post' in a UK museum 3-5
Standard Grades or the equivalent including English, Maths, Art
and Biology are useful.
- An already good knowledge
of wildlife is an advantage. All training is on-the-job and can
be lengthy. For commercial taxidermy firms 'traditional' apprenticeships
are run and these are usually from three to five years. Some
training may be longer.
It is helpful to have the Required, Recommended or Useful Subjects,
Core Skills and Personal Qualities listed in the following sections.
- Applicants should have
good eyesight and normal colour vision. They should not be allergic
to dust, hair or feathers.
- Employers welcome applications
from males and females, people from all ethnic groups and people
- Required, Recommended
or Useful Subjects
The subjects required by employers, museums and universities
vary. However, the following subjects within the National Qualifications
framework are relevant:
- English and/or Communication
Art and Design
Craft and Design
- Core Skills
- These five core skills
are needed in all jobs and are also useful in your personal life.
Use speaking and listening skills when responding to enquiries
from customers or instruction for mounting specimen requirements.
Use written skills to produce log book records (a requirement
for the licensing of all taxidermists).
- Information Technology
P.C. knowledge for use in the workshop when completing/updating
work rotas or specimen stage completion reports. Use word processing
packages to write up computerised log book records.
Use number skills to take measurements of specimens. Calculate
quantities of materials required or for the correct mixing of
- Problem Solving
Analyse the task to be undertaken, for example to create a coastal
display for a museum using specimens of cliff dwelling or wading
birds. Plan how best it can be completed and adapt methods, if
- Working with Others
Work with others when necessary or as part of a team and take
responsibility for your own work.
- Personal Qualities
- Interest in natural history
Manual dexterity and fitness
Strong constitution (stomach)
Ability to work alone
Eye for detail
- Career Development
- The taxidermy industry
has had something of a revival in the last twenty years or so.
However full time employment possibilities remain few with a
large number of applicants seeking positions.
- Some employment is available
in the larger commercial UK firms, sometimes even involving marketing
or management. Also within some UK museums or universities, usually
dealing with the conservation of natural history collections,
working along side other conservators.
- Many applicants seek work
within Europe, Africa or the USA. The USA and Africa having a
large sport hunting population.
- Northern Natural history
Sutherland. KW9 6LU
Tel: 01408 621500
- Scottish Careers Service
E-mail: taxidermy @ nnh.co.uk - Telephone 24hr Answer phone: 01408
621500 Int'l +44 1408 621500
Northern Natural History - Greenhill - BRORA - Sutherland - KW9
6LU - Scotland - United Kingdom
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