Rhino in a spin

27 April, 2009

Rhinoceros photo shoot
Jon Augier (left) and Phil Masters in the studio
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Museum Victoria staff have set large mammal specimens a-spinning as part of the Science and Life Gallery redevelopment.

The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) was one of several animals captured in a 360° photo shoot for the upcoming exhibition Wild: amazing animals in a changing world. The series of photographs, once animated into movies, will feature on interactive screens in the exhibition. The movies will allow visitors to view the animals from every perspective – something often impossible in real-life displays.
To take the photographs, the specimens were carefully moved with a forklift onto a large turntable. The turntable is ordinarily used to turn large crates and containers while wrapping them for transport. The animals were photographed in front of a green backdrop which will be erased from the images in post-production, much like the technique used for television weather reports.

Wild: amazing animals in a changing world will bring numerous heritage collection specimens out of storage. Many require special treatment to ready them for exhibition, such as cleaning and restoration work. Museum preparators vacuum-cleaned the rhino, filled small cracks with self-hardening synthetic clay, and concealed the repairs with oil paint that perfectly matches the skin colour.

“This Indian, or one-horned, rhinoceros, has been in the collection since May 1866 and it appears to have changed hands for 75 pounds – a bargain even at today’s prices,” said Tracey-Ann Hooley, a curator working on the exhibition. Bought from a London taxidermist, the specimen can be seen in archival photographs of the early exhibition halls at the University of Melbourne and the Swanston Street site.

Comparing the rhino’s first public outing in the 1800s to its latest high-tech digital capture reflects the evolving nature of exhibits at Museum Victoria.


Wild: amazing animals in a changing world will open in late 2009.

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