Forget what you think you know about taxidermists. David Schwendeman did not simply stuff inanimate roadkill—he brought nature to life.Schwendeman served as chief taxidermist for the Natural History Museum for 29 years.
The job of a taxidermist, officially referred to as “mounting,” is a complex process. The task involves cleaning and reassembling the animal’s skeleton, sculpting synthetic internal tissue, and restoring the creature’s exterior to a meticulous and appealing likeness. David Schwendeman was a master of these skills.
Schwendeman’s work is famously featured at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. One of his coworkers at the museum, Steve Quinn, described Schwendeman as “An extraordinary artist, an expert sculptor.” Quinn praised, “He could pose animals accurately and scientifically, and at the same time make them aesthetically beautiful. He saw as his goal to inspire wonder and nurture concern for nature.”
Schwendeman devoted his life to the art of mounting, starting at a young age. He learned the trade from his father, who, in 1938, opened Schwendeman’s Taxidermy Studio in Milltown, New Jersey. The studio is still open, now in the hands of David Jr—the third generation of Schwendeman mounters (see Schwendeman & Schwendeman in action here). Leaving behind him a museum of specimens and a family business, Schwendeman’s legacy is well preserved.
Read Schwendeman’s Times obituary here.