In a significant development that underscores the complexities of preserving historical artifacts, a South Dakota museum has made the difficult decision to close its doors after nearly four decades of operation.
The Delbridge Museum of Natural History, affiliated with the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, has shuttered due to concerns regarding the potential hazards posed by the chemicals used in its taxidermy collection.
The announcement was made by the Great Plains Zoo on Thursday, as CEO Becky Dewitz addressed the public.
According to Dewitz, rigorous tests had revealed detectable levels of strong chemicals utilized in the taxidermy process within the museum’s environment.
Acknowledging the weight of the decision, Dewitz emphasized that the closure was necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of both visitors and staff.
The taxidermy collection in question, carefully amassed over several decades by Sioux Falls businessman Henry Brockhouse, showcased a diverse array of animals from around the globe.
With creatures hailing from six different continents, the exhibit was a unique and cherished feature in the region, capturing the essence of wildlife in meticulous detail.
Among the specimens were awe-inspiring creatures such as elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses, zebras, and more, presenting a vivid snapshot of the natural world.
However, the decision to close the museum was not arrived at lightly.
The chemicals used in taxidermy practices during the mid-20th century, particularly prevalent prior to the 1980s, were potent and were intended to ensure the preservation of animal hides.
Delbridge Museum Closure Spotlights Aging Taxidermy Chemical Concerns
Over time, these chemicals have the potential to become volatile, raising concerns about exposure risks as the age of the specimen.
The museum addressed this issue in a statement on its website, explaining the rationale behind the closure.
The statement stated that there is an increasing risk of chemical exposure as the specimens continue to mature.
The city and the zoo made the decision to decommission the collection ‘out of an abundance of caution.’
This decision comes with its own set of challenges, as a number of the animals in the collection are now considered endangered and protected under federal law.
The safe and responsible disposal of taxidermy mounts is an intricate process that requires careful coordination.
To ensure compliance with regulations and to guarantee the well-being of all involved, the Great Plains Zoo and the city of Sioux Falls will collaborate closely with the US.
Fish and Wildlife Service in managing the decommissioning process.
This undertaking is expected to span several months, as the parties work together to ensure that the taxidermy specimens are handled and disposed of in a manner that prioritizes safety and environmental preservation.
In the end, the closure of the Delbridge Museum of Natural History serves as a poignant reminder of the complex considerations that accompany the management and preservation of historical collections.
It highlights the delicate balance between safeguarding valuable artifacts and prioritizing the health and safety of both human and natural ecosystems.