200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 58: “The Exhibits Collection ”

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photo showing items from the Exhibits Collection
A red panda, shrunken head, fish reproductions, and hat decorated with a bird of paradise are some of the odds and ends found in the Academy's Exhibits Collection.

The Exhibits Collection

Like the Academy, most modern-day museums display only a tiny percentage of the items in their collections. These otherwise meticulously organized spaces often have behind-the-scenes storage for a hodge-podge of cool items that do not “fit” into common categories. The Academy’s Exhibits Collection is home to an endearing jumble of interesting, beautiful, and gross specimens.

Why do we have this collection? From our founding in 1812 through the mid-20th century, we built our collections for scientific study and public examination. We were so enthusiastic about adding new items that we ran out of space. Some exhibited items were moved into offices or offsite storage—but unfortunately some were separated from their identifying data in the process. In 1982, an Exhibits Department employee became the first official collection manager for these odds and ends, which included a shrunken human head, a hat decorated with a bird of paradise, a rooster with a 12-foot-long tail, hundreds of taxidermy animals, Inuit artifacts from Greenland, and more. He retrieved the items, organized them, and stored them behind the scenes under the care of our director of exhibits.

In addition to maintaining the Exhibits Collection, our Exhibits Department acquires, builds, and maintains the fantastic exhibits you see in our museum. Come check out their handiwork!

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