Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

Art Conservation, M.A., C.A.S.


Art Conservation Department


Emily Hamilton

First Reader

Dr. Aaron Shugar

Second Reader

Jiuan Jiuan Chen

Third Reader

Dr. Rebecca Ploeger

Fourth Reader

Fiona Beckett

Fifth Reader

Theresa J. Smith


During the Victorian era, taxidermy objects played the roles of educational tools, decoration, and personal adornment. The object at the center of this paper falls into the second category: decoration. It is a taxidermy bird life group, made up of six bird specimens, papier mâché rockwork, and dried plant material mounted on and around a faux tree armature. Owned by the Buffalo Museum of Science, it came to the Garman Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State University with no provenance record or attributions to a known maker. Two goals were developed at the onset of this project: to flesh out information on the maker or manufacturer of this object based on evidence gleaned from examination and material analysis, and to design an interventive conservation approach that would leave this object stabilized and aesthetically improved while retaining the character cherished by the culture that produced it.

The analysis involved XRF and FTIR spectroscopy of the bird specimens, pigments, adhesives, and papier mâché, as well as polarized light microscopy of the pigments. Results of analysis were compared against 19th century taxidermy manuals, and observations from examination were compared against similar objects found in other collections and in auction listings online. The bird and plant species were researched and tentatively identified with the help of botany and ornithology experts. All of this research pointed toward the bird group being of commercially made origin, a class of object which has been rarely studied, and rarely documented in conservation literature.

A conservation treatment was designed by pulling methods and approaches from published resources on the components present in this object. Conservation literature regarding taxidermy specimens, feathers, plant material, and painted surfaces was consulted in order to arrive at the proposed intervention for this object, with some experimental techniques on the consolidation of plant material employed as well.

Available for download on Sunday, August 24, 2025