ATLAS OBSCURA

Obscura Society : The Private Studio of Taxidermist Allis Markham 

Possessing any part of a migratory bird is a felony punishable under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and a single violation could cost you up to $2,000 or two years in prison. While thankful for these strict laws protecting wildlife, we were delighted by the menagerie we discovered in Allis Markham’s freezer. As a taxidermist employed by the Los Angeles Natural History Museum (NHM), she’s licensed to work with all manner of exotic and rare specimens.

Allis holding a European starling. In the depths of her freezer are hummingbirds, songbirds, baby arctic foxes, warthogs, a jack rabbit, a baby skunk, a large female raccoon, crows, squirrels, and roadkill from Griffith Park.

Allis’ background is in anthropology and fine arts. After collecting and restoring taxidermy for many years, she decided to attend the Advanced Taxidermy Training Center in Montana. She received her Gamehead Mounting Certification 2010 and soon thereafter, became a taxidermy volunteer at NHM. Today, she is thrilled to be working full-time at the museum under “Master Taxidermist” Tim Bovard.

Animals taxidermied by Allis for the NHM collection, including a falcon, a juvenile starling, a raven, and a skunk created for the upcoming exhibition, Becoming LA. The ring-tailed lemur was created by her boss, master taxidermist, Tim Bovard. Other objects include, a tanned bobcat skin, glass eyes, a coyote skull, and a cougar mouth set.

On April 6, Obscura Society LA visited Allis Markham at her home studio in Hollywood, California. Arriving at her Craftsman-style bungalow, we were greeted by her husband David and dog Bacon and welcomed into their home. Munching on Girl Scout cookies and sipping red wine, we settled in for an evening discussion on DIY taxidermy, museum best practices, and NHM behind-the-scenes insights. Who knew that the elephants in the Mammal Hall used to have animatronic flapping ears?

Follow me for the highlights reel…