Journal Article

Still life? : Children’s understanding of the reality status of museum taxidermy


Taxidermied animals provide an important source of information about the natural world, but failure to understand their reality status may result in missed learning opportunities for museum visitors. This study explored 4- to 10- year-old children’s and adults’ (n=207) reality status judgments, and biological and authenticity property attributions for a taxidermied rabbit during a museum visit. The aim was to examine their understanding of its former status as a living animal and its current status as an authentic piece of natural history under different presentation conditions, including: 1) as a touchable exhibit; 2) inside an exhibition case – untouchable; and 3) an experimental context paired with a toy rabbit – both touchable. Analysis revealed that there was an increase with age both in judgments that taxidermy was real and authentic, and in accuracy of biological property attributions. The toy condition resulted in more accurate reality judgments, whereas the touchable condition resulted in more accurate biological property attributions. There was no effect of age or condition on authenticity property attributions. Accuracy of biological property attributions was also associated with reality status judgments, suggesting that understanding the real and authentic nature of taxidermy was associated with understanding its biological status. Implications for the development of biological cognition and museum learning are discussed.

Attached files


Bunce, Louise

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work


Year of publication: 2018
Date of RADAR deposit: 2018-08-24

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of Still life? : Children’s understanding of the reality status of museum taxidermy


  • Owner: Joseph Ripp
  • Collection: Outputs
  • Version: 1 (show all)
  • Status: Live
  • Views (since Sept 2022): 119