Members of an elite profession, two preparators in Castlemaine, Vic, recreate the long-distant past.

Story John Dunn

Ewin Wood and Dean Smith are preparators. A preparatory is someone who prepares specimens for scientific examination or exhibition. Using tubs of rubber, fibreglass, foam, timber, steel, glass eyes, magnifying lights, knives, chisels and fine brushes, preparators can be found in museums and workshops carefully crafting natural history objects. Sometimes they venture into galleries and public areas installing exhibits and re-creations of exotic animals and unusual flora and fauna that were prevalent thousands or millions of years ago. 

Thirty years ago Ewin and Dean met at the Museum of Victoria, where they were employed by the Koori Heritage Trust to help build a three-storey replica of a red gum canoe-scar tree.

They believe Australia has only about a dozen of their kind. Through their partnership Museum Makers, they are keen to pass on their skills because of the growing demand among a widening range of organisations for the rare and extraordinary work they do in enabling history to live again. “Already our two-day classes in taxidermy have attracted attention and we plan to do more this year,” Dean says. “It revives memories of my own learning – night school to obtain a Diploma of Applied Science. Pictures of animals and birds hung on my bedroom wall and nature in all its forms was something that always interested me. I volunteered at the Melbourne Museum for two years in the hope of getting a job there and finally succeeded.” 

This story excerpt is from Issue #136

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2021