Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This Old Tiger

I saved this photo from my Natural History Museum visit on Monday for today, because I have a story about this old stuffed beast. Monday's post was long enough without it.

Currently, this old tiger is leaping up high above visitors in the mammal hall. However, for years and years, he was on display just outside the old cafeteria, the one with the food carousel. He was on a raised platform, about three feet up, poised to pounce on a rabbit, I think, which was behind some tall grasses. This was before everything was behind glass. He was out in the open: almost close enough to touch.

One day, at least 20 years ago, I watched a curator carefully paint his stripes. This is the sort of thing which fascinates me. It never occurred to me that a tiger would need touch up paint. However, the curator explained that the old specimens fade over time, as they are on display much longer than an animal's natural lifespan, so periodically they must be repainted to their natural color. The curator was following his natural stripes with great care and a delicate brush. It was interesting to watch, and now I can never see this tiger without thinking of that day.