It has been a few weeks since I posted the original story, and since that time I have been able to do a little more digging – or rather, enlisted the help of professionals in the collection!
I got in touch with the Canadian Museum of Nature Library staff to try and find out the answers to the questions I still had at the end of the first installment of this story. I still don’t have all of the answers, but I think I’m getting a little closer. I was put in touch with the Archivist, the Curator of the Vertebrate Collection, and an Assistant in Collections Services, who kindly and enthusiastically put their skills and knowledge to work for me.
The Curator of the Vertebrate Collection was able to confirm that Anderson did collect two bison specimens, one adult male and a four year old male, and confirmed that the skins and skeletons of these specimens are still in the permanent collection.
The Conservator of the Canadian Museum of Nature told me that the original bison exhibit was actually sponsored by Harry Snyder, the very same Harry Snyder whose bison specimen were later installed in the exhibit in the place of Anderson’s. This seems to me to be a pretty good explanation for why the Museum put his bison on display just ten years after Anderson’s specimens were acquired.
The Conservator confirmed that at the time that Anderson went on his expedition, dioramas were seen as a new way in which to display specimens so that visitors would have the opportunity to actually see the animals in their natural habitats. This was also done with the aim of teaching visitors about animals in their natural habitats, environmental issues and preservation, and she indicated that this was indeed very forward thinking for museums at the time. She told me that the original bison diorama was created by the museum staff, including artist Claude Johnson and taxidermist/model maker Clyde Patch.
The Conservator also provided me with a photograph which she believes shows the original bison that was collected by Anderson:
The picture was not dated, but she guessed based on the clothing of the people in the image viewing the exhibits that it was around the late 1910s. If this is the case however, then I personally doubt that the bison on display in this exhibit is the bison specimen brought back by Anderson. Anderson collected his specimens in 1927, and they arrived at the museum in 1928. If this photo was taken in the late 1910s, it is not possible for the bison in the image to have been Anderson’s.
That’s all I have for now, but I am hoping to continue digging up what I can about this exhibit, and I will update this space as and when I do.