Michael Anderson never learned how to use a shotgun. “I'm not a hunter,” he says. But fortunately for the study of ornithology and unfortunately for the birds of Connecticut, his predecessor was.
Anderson is a museum preparator who oversees the dioramas, building models, exhibit creation and taxidermy upkeep at at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, including its Birds of Connecticut Hall. The hall is meant to be an identification guide of sorts — an amateur ornithologist should be able to describe a bird they saw and then be able to identify it at the museum. The hall contains 772 specimens of the state’s more than 300 bird species, but unfortunately, it is still missing some, even today.
While the previous preparator regularly shot the birds he needed for display, hunting fell out of practice when Anderson arrived three decades ago. Instead, he relied on people finding dead birds and bringing them to the Peabody to mount. “It's very difficult for me to find birds,” he says, “I've only found two or three birds that I was able to taxidermy and put on display.”
That all changed in 2016, when his team at the Peabody received an HP 3D scanner and printer. The museum, and Anderson’s job, has never been the same.