Meet the museum makers

Museum preparator, Castlemaine's Ewin Wood, with natural history taxidermy display models ahead of next month's taxidermy workshop.
Museum preparator, Castlemaine's Ewin Wood, with natural history taxidermy display models ahead of next month's taxidermy workshop.

If you’ve ever marvelled at the preserved real-life bodies of dinosaurs, whales or famed racehorses displayed in museums, you may well be a candidate for a unique taxidermy workshop coming up in Castlemaine next month.
Launched during the recent Castlemaine State Festival, Museum Makers is a new niche business that brings together two of Australian’s leading history preparators to teach anyone interested some of their unique technical skills.
“We feel like we’ve got something to teach people and pass on,” says Castlemaine-based Ewin ahead of the two-day taxidermy workshop they’ll be running over the weekend of June 22-23.
Museum Makers is based at Castlemaine’s Lot 19 arts hub and Ewin says that when they held an earlier taxidermy workshop not long ago it drew a diverse range of keen participants.
“We had people ranging from a 15-year-old vegan to a 70-year-old who had it on her bucket list,” he says.
Ewin and Dean are both trained in the traditional skills of preserving natural history specimens for display in prestigious places like Melbourne Museum and the National Museum Australia.
Their custom-made workshops are aimed at anyone from untrained members of the public to students of museum studies, fine arts and science and industry professionals.
For next month’s workshop, he says ethically sourced Indian mynah birds will be used to teach participants taxidermy techniques, while strict regulations govern the sourcing of any native wildlife for taxidermy preservation – including animals that are already found to be deceased.
And while other display techniques – like computer-generated imagery – have arisen since the early days of taxidermy, Ewin says there’s still plenty of call for taxidermy both in preserving and displaying real creatures that once lived and breathed, and also in informing high-tech techniques of display.
“It’s got all the real features and all the real attributes apart from what’s inside and the glass eyes, so if you can get that right and make an animal come to life per se, and people can get up close, they can get a deep appreciation of the beauty of that animal,” he says.
“People don’t usually get the opportunity to see a tawny frogmouth or a pardalote up close. You usually don’t get the opportunity to get up close and actually really look at the detail of the beak, the claws, the beautiful feather structure – and if done well you can do justice to the animal and you can spark people’s interest in environmental education and that’s what we’re about.”