8:57am

Tue February 1, 2011
The Picture Show

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."

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. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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