{Eccentric or Grotesque}

The Museum of Everything in Primrose Hill is displaying the bizarre dioramas of Mr. Potter’s Museum of Curiosities featuring stuffed animals mimicking human life. This unusual and eccentric collection of taxidermy features animals engaging in all manner of activities, such as card playing squirrels, kittens sipping tea, mice seated in a village school, and kittens dressed up for a wedding.

Taxidermy was used by the Victorians to study and understand animals and their physiology. In the late 1800s, it was thought fashionable to have deceased pets stuffed and cased, or mounted, and on display. Since there were no cinemas, and photography was very basic, it also allowed many people to see wild and exotic animals that they normally would never imagine. Whether deemed grotesque or a work of art, the Potter collection is considered a major achievement of taxidermy that over the years has been exhibited in major museums, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The fully clothed characters in “The Kitten’s Wedding” demonstrates the attention to detail – the kittens even wear frilly knickers under their formal attire. These quirky scenes, featuring some of taxidermist Walter Potter’s most famous works, will be on display at the Museum of Everything through December.

Furthermore, the site A Case of Curiosities provides excellent background information about Potter’s work with many photographs.

[Photographs: Marc Hill]

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