Our “misty” showcases

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 14 May 2011

To see or not to see? That is the question.

Students viewing Birds of Paradise specimens

Students viewing Birds of Paradise specimens
Photographer: Chris Lang © Australian Museum

In our Birds of Paradise exhibition there is a row of showcases containing dead, stuffed birds (i.e. they have been 'taxidermied'). The glass on the case has been covered by a special coating which causes it to appear ‘misty’, according to some visitors. The coating obscures the specimens unless they are viewed from directly above only.

We used the coating on this display case because several of our audience research studies have found that some visitors are upset when seeing multiple specimens of taxidermied birds or other animals. With this coating on the case, visitors can view just one or two bird specimens at a time.

Students who recently visited the exhibition liked this idea and thought it added a touch of mystery.

Misty showcase from a distance

What do you think? Leave your comments below and we’ll consider them before deciding whether to leave the cases “misty” or to remove the coating.


black-swans-pond - 9.06 PM, 27 June 2011
I really enjoyed the exhibition, but really didn't think the misty cases were neccessary. To be honest, I thought it was a shame that the taxidermy wasn't used as another opportunity for education - since it had its heyday in the 19thC when collecting birds of paradise became popular. I find taxidermy really fascinating - perhaps exactly because it is now so unfashionable. Helping people to understand why and how taxidermy was practiced on the birds would have been really interesting. I was dissapointed by the misty cases and felt they obscured my vision of the birds. Also - perhaps an unrelated note, but the interface next to these cabinets wasn't working when I was there on the weekend - it always a pain when technology fails like this!
Chris Hosking - 12.06 PM, 22 June 2011

It would be interesting to know how visitors feel about the display case opposite these misty ones. This case also contains dead birds, but ones that have been mounted in lifelike positions, rather than horizontally like the 'misted' study skins.

Since both displays contain dead birds (and I think most people would recognise the mounted ones as dead and not;  “really tame live birds”) does mounting a bird or leaving it as a study skin (the way the majority of bird and mammal specimens are held in the Museum) make a difference to peoples attitudes?

Just wondering...

Lynda Kelly - 3.05 PM, 18 May 2011

@Marloes - thnx for your feedback.

@Vanessa - we have done at least three studies with visitors now and there's just something about rows of dead birds that they really dislike so we thought we'd try and counter that. I do agree with you tho about the condensation - maybe the coating needs to have no bubbling?

We've also added a question about the cases in our exit survey so I'm really keen to hear what others think!

Vanessa Finney - 5.05 PM, 17 May 2011

When I first saw them, I thought the cases had condensation on the inside. What's wrong with rows of dead birds?

Marloes Schepers - 3.05 PM, 16 May 2011

My answer would be: "not to see" !

I like the mysterious 'misty' cases. They caught my attention right away when I first walked into the exhibition. They make people curious. And, to be honest... rows of dead birds? Not really my cup of tea either...

Leave them as they are please!

Lynda Kelly - 1.05 PM, 16 May 2011

Thnx for your feeback @The Kracken. I will be uploading some images soon so people can see what we're talking about if they haven't seen the exhibition.

The Kracken - 6.05 AM, 15 May 2011
Please leave the cases as they are. I don't wish to see rows of dead birds. I love the exhibit just as it is.

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