HARRISON (DES) BARKERTo make observations and receive informal training in taxidermy in overseas countries - UK, Canada, USA
Born in Launceston, Des (as he was known) completed a course at Launceston Technical College before taking up an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker with F.W.A Roden PTY Ltd and working alongside his father with whom he had a very strong bond. He was described then as ‘clean, thorough and fast with his work, a first class tradesman’ a description which applied to him all his life.
Increasingly his interested turned to natural history returning to study for a Technical Certificate in Biology.In 1971 he moved to Hobart to become a preparator at the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (TMAG) His work began to transform museum displays as he developed his own taxidermy techniques and skills and rapidly his reputation spread. he spent 12 years at TMAG showing brilliance in his creativity.
His Churchill Fellowship allowed him to expand his abilities and interests by offering him opportunity to view others’ work and to see what was happening in other parts of the world, notably the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA.
Des was particularly interested in how the problem of colour retention in natural history specimens was handled, he gained much help and advice from Dr High Steedman in Bath, an outstanding research worker in this field. Likewise he was most impressed by the modelling with wax by Roy Herbert at the National Museum in Cardiff. In America he found the expertise in painted reproduction backgrounds for large, open displays combined with excellent up to date taxidermy displays very stimulating and life like.
FELLOWSHIP CONCLUSIONS & OUTCOMES
He concluded that in the UK consideration needed to be given to a formal training program in advanced taxidermy techniques and that this could be equally said for Australia which he felt at that time, suffered similarly from the isolation of individual taxidermists, and the lack of formal training. He went on to say that he felt that there would be great benefit in an International Association of Museum Taxidermists as a means of publicising new methods, developments and offering a platform for museum taxidermists to communicate and problem solve.
Des’ legacy remains evident at TMAG, the last project he worked on was the construction of 6 life sized models of the large Tasmanian mammals which lived in Tasmania at the end of the ice age over 50,000 years ago. He died in 1984, aged 52.