Are the Animals at the Museum of Natural History Taxidermy?

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is one of the most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike. It’s a place where visitors can learn about the history of our planet and its inhabitants, including animals. As you walk through the halls, you may wonder if the animals on display are real or if they are just taxidermy.

What is Taxidermy

Taxidermy is the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting animal skins to create lifelike representations of animals. It has been around for centuries and was once used as a way to preserve animals for scientific study. Today, taxidermy is more commonly used for artistic purposes and as a way to display trophy animals.

Are the Animals at the Museum Real

The short answer is yes; most of the animals on display at the American Museum of Natural History are real. However, they are not alive. The majority of these animals were donated by other museums, zoos, or private collectors after they died either from natural causes or because they were euthanized due to health issues.

Once an animal arrives at the museum, it goes through a process called ‘dermestid beetle cleaning.’ This involves placing the carcass in an enclosed space with Dermestid beetles that eat away all of the flesh from bones until only bones remain. The bones are then cleaned and reassembled into their original positions using wires and other materials.

After that, each bone is covered in clay or plaster to create a mold that will be used to make a replica skeleton. The replica skeleton is then mounted on a metal armature that mimics how the animal would have stood in life.

Finally, synthetic materials such as foam and polyester fillers are used to create muscle mass around each bone before being covered with real animal skin that has been treated with chemicals to prevent decay.

What About the Animals in Dioramas

The animals in dioramas are also real, but they are not taxidermy. Instead, they are created using a process called ‘habitat group construction.’

This involves creating a replica of the animal’s natural environment, complete with rocks, plants, and other elements. The animal is then placed in the scene as if it were still alive.

The animals used in habitat groups are either donated or collected by museum staff. They are usually young specimens that have died from natural causes or have been euthanized due to health issues.


In conclusion, the animals on display at the American Museum of Natural History are mostly real and not just taxidermy. They go through an extensive process to ensure that they are preserved for future generations to learn from and appreciate. So next time you visit the museum, take a closer look at these magnificent creatures and appreciate their beauty and complexity.