A Moveable Beast

Helge Skodvin & Ned Beauman

Even long after death, animals can still be displaced by habitat loss. In 2013, the University Museum in Bergen, Norway, was closed for renovations and its collections were moved into temporary storage. Photographer Helge Skodvin, who visited the museum regularly as a boy, was given permission to document the migration of the natural history department. The curators had to take great care with their charges, some of which are over 150 years old and as unwieldy as they are fragile. It took seven burly men to lift the stuffed African elephant onto a pallet, although in these photos no humans are seen, only taxidermy idling in transit.

It is alarming to think that some of these stuffed animals may one day be valuable as more than just visitor attractions or artefacts in the history of Norwegian science. After all, in the same way that the death of an artist will boost the prices of his or her work, the extinction of a species will elevate, and sanctify, any preserved specimens. In this sense, taxidermy offers animals both a second life and a second harassment by the Anthropocene. Their rest can be disturbed not only by the movers but also by having new significance suddenly thrust upon them when a forest is razed thousands of miles away.

The Kabul Markhor
Tyger, Tyger