Prior to the Victorian era, taxidermy was considered an essential scientific preservation technique. Naturalists could send specimens from other continents back for further study. During the Victorian era, the practice became popular for the general population as the public’s love of nature began to rise. It was not only seen as a way to have a piece of nature inside the home for decoration, it was also viewed as having educational benefits.
Another common practice in the Victorian era was to put display objects under a glass dome. This diorama displays content under a half dome. The background is a water colored painting. The foreground consists of two stuffed willets with dried dune grass. According to the Audubon Society, the willet population was much decreased in the later 19th century because of hunting, but has increased greatly in recent years.
Look for the diorama in the Library. To learn more about this and other objects, please join a tour of the Emlen Physick Estate.