Camel SkeletonI was lucky enough to spend a week in Oxford recently with one of my dear friends. There is a certain charm to the place itself but for me the highlights are definitely the museums. Last time I was there I wrote a post on the wonderful History of Science Museum and this trip we visited the OUM of Natural History and adjoining Pitt-Rivers Museum.
It was actually quite an odd experience. The Museum itself is great; wonderful architecture and factual displays. As you probably know by now, I’m obsessed with animals. Whilst we wandered around I thought that perhaps my love of animals stems from being exposed to a lot of animals at a young age. There were a lot of kids wandering around and drawing pictures of giraffes, tigers, lions etc – all the exotic, faraway animals you learn about in school.
Thing is, I can first remember seeing a giraffe aged about 4 and at this point in my life, I’ve met most of these animals numerous times. I wondered if that has something to do with why I’ve always felt so strongly about animal rights and care. Perhaps the dangers and problems animals face seem more real when the animals themselves stop being theoretical?
Seeing a preserved taxidermy tortoise when just a few short weeks ago I was interacting with real ones was a truly bizarre experience, the camel skeleton just reminded me of Casanova (the camel that “flirted” with me in Egypt), and by the time we reached a stuffed fox, all I could unhappily think about was the foxes that play outside my bedroom window here in London. I was still fascinated by the skeletons of dinosaurs and the fossils of long extinct animals, but for some reason I found the exhibits of animals still alive today really jarring and it left me feeling a bit despondent (as per usual) about the way animals are treated in our society.
My friend made the point that it’s weird to see skeletons and taxidermy and think that all those animals were hunted. I sarcastically replied that it’s hardly like animals roll over and die for us to eat them every day – but he had genuinely never considered the fact that animals were hunted to be displayed before. Perhaps it’s just the way different brains work?