Earth & Conservation

Turning Dead Animals Into A Dream Job

See how a childhood fascination with taxidermy can blossom into an amazing career making natural history exhibits for a big museum.

Cutting, sewing, stuffing and posing dead animals are all in a day's work for Alicia Goode. In this episode of Seeker Stories, we meet Alicia, the Exhibits Preparator for the Oakland Museum of California, and take a look at her job as a professional taxidermist. Alicia's job is to make animal corpses come to life for museum goers to enjoy -- and hopefully learn from too.

Taxidermy has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, thanks to its reinvention as an artform that now decorates the fashionable apartments of urban millennials. There are many options for meeting your taxidermy needs in cities like New York, London and San Francisco, and many different styles of art to choose from. One woman from England even creates elaborate taxidermy sculptures out of dead snakes.

Alicia, on the other hand, has always had a fascination with taxidermy. She even has memories of experimenting with it as a kid. She would often make taxidermy shoebox dioramas for her friends, which their parents didn't always appreciate.

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Taxidermy combines Alicia's two passions -- art and nature -- and she's never given up on pursuing it. She originally majored in zoology and later switched to fine art, but she decided to leave school altogether when she was offered her first museum gig and realized that doing taxidermy for exhibits was her dream job.

When Alicia first came to the Oakland Museum she had her work cut out for her. There were many displays that needed a lot of sprucing up, including a herd of Tule Elk that had been collected in 1910, and a grizzly bear that was in pretty rough shape. Alicia was able to revamp the displays and make the animals look (almost) alive again.

It's a common assumption that someone who enjoys doing taxidermy is obsessed with death or morbidity, but to Alicia taxidermy has always been about creating something that will encourage others to care about nature. If her displays can make someone love nature enough to want to conserve it for future generations, then she's done her job.

-- Molly Fosco