Our first board of directors consists of a taxidermist, a children’s library clerk, and a creative businessman. We are passionate about education and we believe that every person should have access to education… particularly about the natural world!
The Specimen Museum is an approved Illinois nonprofit with federal 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. Donations are tax-deductible.
How did the Specimen Museum come to life?
The Specimen Museum is a project that evolved from the belief that every person should have the opportunity to learn about the preservation of specimens, a niche but important aspect of the biological sciences. Every specimen is like a time capsule and each one has inherent value. Taxidermy and its related practices are utilized by scientists to preserve each of their subjects of study. The preservation of specimens has helped scientists describe brand-new species and even led to the eradication of the dangerous pesticide DDT in the United States in the 1970s.
Some people refer to taxidermy as a dying art, but our team believes it’s important and that it’s making a comeback. With this resurgence, we want to give everyone the opportunity to learn about why preservation is important and get some context alongside the examples they are provided.
Our Mobile Museum program operates to fill gaps for school groups, scout groups, community organizations, and anyone else who believes that their students can benefit from some hands-on science education.
Our Specimen Restoration program gives educational institutions a chance to spruce up their teaching collections in order to make everything safe to use and pleasing to look at for generations to come.
With our collection of specimens for hands-on activities amounting to over 100 specimens and counting, the Specimen Museum team is passionate about learning the who, what, where, when, and why about every specimen and then sharing that with the world. Want to get on board? Book a visit from our Mobile Museum, submit a specimen for consideration for our Specimen Restoration program, make a donation, or apply to volunteer!
Our plans for the future…
There is currently a disconnect for most visitors to traditional natural history museums: typical museum patrons only see around 1% of what is in each museum’s holdings, and out of that 1% the majority of the specimens are traditional taxidermy mounts of life-size animals. The placards for each animal generally only explain what the animal is, where it came from, and perhaps some fun facts about how the animal exists in the wild while it is alive. The fact that it is taxidermied, the date of collection, the name of the person who collected and/or prepared the specimen, how it was preserved, and why the specimen itself is intrinsically valuable in the realm of science are almost never included or explained to museum visitors.
Our goal is for the Specimen Museum to open in a permanent location, which shall encompass all of the information that gets lost in translation between the archives and most museum displays. Modern natural history museums have been run the same way for decades, if not centuries, and many are plagued by one thing: a lack of transparency and accessibility for visitors who have no context for natural history collections. We want to change the game by creating interactive displays and sharing the types of treasures usually buried within the archives with anyone who walks through our door… no VIP status necessary.
We are eventually seeking space on the south side of Chicago, close to the El, and will forever remain free to Chicago Public Schools students, faculty and staff, and affiliates along with discounts for Chicago residents, city-sanctioned free days, and discounts for students and staff of other educational institutions.
Until then, we’re pretty happy to be reaching dozens of students per week with our mobile museum programming.