Museum Minute: A High School's Taxidermy Collection Becomes A Museum

Jan 4, 2019

The Draper Natural History Museumwas founded in 1998. The founding curator, Dr. Charles Preston, had a surprise collection waiting for him when he arrived.


Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Credit Courtesy of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

“I was told of a group of taxidermist specimen that were somewhere in the vaults of the museum,” recalled Preston. “There were a couple hundred taxidermy birds and mammals that dated back to 1800s...the oldest from 1870.”

This taxidermy collection was most likely originally part of private collections. Preston said at the turn of the 20th century, it was common for personal collections to move to public institutions. It turns out this collection was given to the Cody High School. The collection was displayed in the hallways of the school but by the early 60s the high school decided they didn't want all the specimens.

“The Buffalo Bill Museum Curator accepted those specimens for a natural history museum, which now exists. But it was 40 years later until we developed the [Draper] natural history museum,” said Preston.