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Found In The Archives

Found In The Archives: 'Modern' Elephant Taxidermy

Time spent at the American Museum of Natural History is always time well spent. The dioramas alone could keep a person busy looking and admiring for a lifetime.

Less well-known but just as rewarding is the museum's film collection, which contains glimpses into some of the most beautiful corners that the world has to offer — both natural and human endeavor. (There are also quite a few peculiarities, such as the film of mime interpretations of Piltdown Man and other anthropological hoaxes.)

Modern Taxidermy: Mounting the Indian Elephant (shown here in abridged form) is a 1927 silent film that documents Carl Akeley's taxidermy process from the raw hide — fresh from the Faunthorpe-Vernay collection expedition — to finished display.

The rhythm of the silent film and the craftsmanship of the workers complement the value of the historical record and the sadness for the elephant in such a beautifully lyrical way.

The music is not original to the film; I added it. The first piece is Helen Louise and Frank Ferera, "Arabian Dreams," and the second is Harry Reser, "Calling."

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Found in the Archives, a Picture Show miniseries running at the beginning of each month, features archival films and found images selected by researcher Rich Remsberg.