Visitors to Stevenage Museum may have noticed that we have a large stuffed animal (taxidermy) collection in our Natural History gallery. Taxidermy is the art of preparing, stuffing and mounting animal skins and has been practised for many years by taxidermists, the earliest examples having been recorded in the Middle Ages. It is a method of preservation and has been used mostly by hunters to show off their most impressive kills and natural historians so that they can study increasingly rare species. It was also popular in the Victorian times, as people thought they were a stylish decoration in their homes. Though it is less common to see taxidermy on a household level now, some pet owners will have their beloved cats and dogs treated in this way as an homage to their existence!
Mr Fox is a figure I remember from when I was a child, visiting Stevenage Museum with my mother and sister in the 1990s and early 2000s. Though my sister and I found the gallery a little scary at first, we were delighted by the small furry animals and loved the fact that we could stroke the top of Mr Fox’s head. We weren’t the only ones either, poor Mr Fox has had a number of operations over the years to patch up small injuries after visitors played a little too roughly with him!
Mr Fox was donated to the Museum by a Mr Colin Bladon in October 1968 and understandably, after over forty years of service, has gone into retirement, so you can’t see him in the galleries any more. However, if you ask the staff at the museum shop whether you can meet him, they will happily oblige. I think he must get a bit lonely in the store room now after all of the attention he used to get…