The museum hosted a birthday party for Steer Montana which included selfies with this very old mount. It appeared that the protective case was removed and patrons were allowed to touch the animal. Also, the use of arsenic was a common practice in taxidermy at the time this animal was preserved.
Can the museum board and curator respond to concerns that human contact will not degrade the hide and ensure public safety of those who may have been exposed to chemicals used in preservation?
Answered by Melissa Rost, Curator, O’Fallon Historical Museum
Jenn Hall from the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka has been doing our restoration work on Steer Montana. Jenn is a professional with impressive credentials and extensive museum and taxidermy experience and is doing a beautiful job on this project, which is currently a work still in progress. It was necessary to remove Steer Montana from behind the plexiglass in order to do the restoration work, so we did hold a “selfie” contest with Steer Montana while he is out of the enclosure. There are signs posted and there was always staff on hand during this contest to ensure that the taxidermy was not touched. Due to the angles the pictures were taken at it may appear that the mount was handled, but it was not touched or harmed in any way, as it is true that extensive contact will degrade the hide. We are aware of the possibility of arsenic in old taxidermy, therefore Jenn’s first priority was to examine the mount for signs of arsenic, which she did not find. We are very concerned about preservation of all our collections as well as public safety and we are taking precautions to those ends.
Please feel free to examine the pictures for yourself on our Facebook page, O’Fallon Historical Museum, or on Instagram, @ofallonmuseum. We would also invite the public to stop down anytime and see the restoration work that is taking place, visit with the curator about the process, and take their own selfies with #SteerMontana. We are excited about the unique exhibits we offer and encourage the public to stop by and check them out.