When is a Great Auk not an Auk?

AukOur Great Auk is back home from its visit to Simon Moore’s Conservation Lab. However, mystery still surrounds our Great Auk specimen – is it a rare example of this extinct bird or a model made up of bits of other taxidermy specimens? 

Investigations to date have been inconclusive.  It appears to be the work of Shrewsbury’s famous nineteenth century taxidermist Henry Shaw who is known to have prepared four Great Auk specimens. However, it is still unclear if it is a true specimen or not.  Many taxidermists at the time used bits of different birds to create reconstructions of the Great Auk for collectors keen to display this rare ‘must-have’ species.  It is hoped that DNA samples from the preserved skin will soon be able to settle this mystery once and for all.

In the meantime, she (the specimen is displayed proudly standing over an egg) has had a thorough clean and treated for wear and tear.  She will form a central part of our Collecting Gallery as an example of how over collecting in the Victorian period help to drive many species to extinction.  Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund our Great Auk will hopefully survive for another two hundred years.