GOLLY, I didn’t know this place existed!” was a common exclamation as we parted the curtains hiding the charming and olde-worlde Museum of Natural History and The Academy of Taxidermy at Guildford.
Only one of the 11 members present had previously visited the museum despite everyone having driven past it, some on an almost daily basis.
Michael Buzza and his partner Lara set up their business and home in what used to be the Regent Theatre about 15 years ago. The museum contains thousands of natural history specimens many of which have been prepared by Michael himself.
We opted for the one hour introduction and tour by Michael who has been practising taxidermy for over forty years.
From the humble beginning of skinning rabbits on his father’s farm his skills have grown to now attract worldwide customers although he admits his first love is Australian natives.
His displays ranged from recently hatched ducklings to a polar bear waiting to be rejuvenated. There are even examples of birds that are now extinct.
Michael took us through the various techniques and processes for the mounting of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and what he calls trophies- the heads of dear, water buffalo etc. The preparation of specimens can involve the use of wire frames for bird skeletons to large amounts of quickset foam or polyfilla for filling the moulds of large animals or fibreglass and gelcoats for fish (ever wonder where your local fish and chip shop got its model of a dhufish from?). Birds and animals with a high fat content are the most difficult to process as it is essential to remove all the fat.
What surprised me was how much demand there was for Michael’s services. He told us that rarely a day goes by without someone bringing in fresh road kill or a pet animal for preservation. Michael has several freezers full of birds and animals waiting to be worked on.
If you do come across some fresh road kill that you think should be mounted the recommended process is: put a wad of cotton wool or tissue paper in the mouth and anus (to soak up the body fluids), then place the specimen in a plastic bag and remove all the air with a vacuum pump or vacuum cleaner, do the same with a second bag, tie securely then place in a freezer.
The museum also features many large models of dinosaurs – some life-size, others are scaled down versions but still impressive.
Don Poynton, Michael and therapod friend!
All photos: T Marwood
By the end of the visit it was, GOLLY we must bring the grandkids! At $2 for children and $5 for adults it’s great value. And we all can recommend a visit to the Gelato shop around the corner, just ask Michael or Lara for directions.
All Photos: T Marwood.
For more photos and reports of previous visits, see page 2.