Curator's Choice: Jo Hatton chooses a taxidermy toy terrier at London's Horniman Museum

By Ben Miller | 27 November 2015

Curator’s Choice: Jo Hatton, Keeper of Natural History at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London, on a taxidermy toy terrier

A photo of a woman looking at a painting of a dog inside a gallery
© Horniman Museum and Gardens
“This taxidermy mount of a black and tan toy terrier appears at the entrance to an exhibition of paintings and museum objects curated by artist Mark Fairnington which opens this Saturday at the Horniman Museum and Gardens.

The dog is displayed close to a painting of the animal, as it was encountered by the artist in store, in an exhibition that explores the strange and the unexpected, the thrill of discovery, a feeling of what it might be like to encounter museum objects for the first time in store.

The toy terrier was once part of a collection assembled by Samuel Prout Newcombe, an ex-schoolmaster and enthusiastic collector who, in 1857, started the London School of Photography.

An image of a painting of a small brown dog inside a white box
Huge bull paintings, taxidermy and skeletal specimens are included in the exhibition © Mark Fairnington / Peter White FXP Photography
Following his death, his natural history collection eventually made its way to the Horniman Museum and, by 1905, it became part of our collection.

Aside from this, very little is known about the ‘dog in the box’. Where did it come from? Who did it belong to? Was it a working animal, used to hunt rats and rabbits or was it a well-loved family pet? We may never know.

It might have belonged to the family or a close friend, or arrived already preserved, purchased by Prout Newcombe for his collection to show visitors an example of a particular breed of small dog.

Either way, it was painstakingly prepared by a taxidermist over 100 years ago and added to the collection, simultaneously becoming a museum exhibit and perhaps also a longstanding reminder of a once loved pet.”

  • Collected and Possessed is funded through Art Happens, the Art Fund’s crowdfunding platform. It can be seen at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, London until January 24 2016.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of an artwork centred around a series of deers inside a museum display case
The Night Watch© Mark Fairninton / Peter White FXP Photography
A photo of an artwork showing a series of feathered yellow birds
The New Paradise© Mark Fairninton / Peter White FXP Photography
A photo of an artwork showing an eagle and a series of other birds
The Brotherhood© Mark Fairninton / Peter White FXP Photography
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