Walter Potter and His Museum of Extraordinary Taxidermy: Illustrated Live Zoom Lecture and Show and Tell by Potter Author and Collector Dr. Pat Morris
Walter Potter (1835-1918) was a self-taught English country taxidermist of no great expertise, but he and the little museum that he created, became nationally and internationally famous as an icon of Victorian whimsy. He created a fantasy world in taxidermy, where rabbits went to school, kittens played croquet and squirrels drank port in their smart club. His animal tableaux included a recreation of a familiar children’s poem, the Death and Burial of Cock Robin, probably the single most famous single item of Victorian taxidermy.
His tiny museum in Bramber in Sussex was crammed full of multi-legged kittens, two-headed lambs and a bewildering assortment of general curios. The museum later moved to other sites, ending up at Jamaica Inn in Cornwall, where it was finally sold and dispersed in 2003. During more than 140 years, Potter’s collection of curiosities was visited by over two million people and featured on television and in countless newspaper articles.
This presentation, by the foremost collector of Walter Potter taxidermy and author of Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy, will share what little is known about the man himself and describes the history of his museum and its extraordinary contents, before it was broken up and became widely dispersed. Potter’s collection was a unique example of whimsical nineteenth century social history, the like of which we will not see again. Dr Morris will also share some of his own pieces of Potter taxidermy that reside in his collection.
Pat Morris has known the collection for more than 60 years and served as an advisor to its last owners. He now owns a few core items from the collection, some of which may well put in an appearance during his talk.
More on the speaker: Dr Pat Morris Was Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Royal Holloway (University of London) and has a longstanding interest in the history of taxidermy. He has published several papers and books on the subject, including A History of Taxidermy: Art, Science and Bad Taste (2010), along with more than 50 other scientific papers and 20 natural history books. He is the first Honorary Life Member of the Guild of Taxidermists and a member of Defra’s panel of experts appointed to assess authenticity of antique taxidermy items.
Widely known for his conservation-related research on mammals, especially hedgehogs and dormice, he is a former Chairman of the Mammal Society, was a Council Member of the National Trust and former Chairman of its Nature Conservation Advisory Panel. He was appointed MBE by the Queen in 2015 ‘for services to the natural and historic environment’, the latter being a reference to his contributions to the history and management of taxidermy collections. He has visited several hundred zoos and natural history museums, in more than 20 countries and has a devoted wife, married since 1978 .
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