Fashioning Feathers… as both a research and exhibition project aims to explore what working with a biogeographical approach (see Patchett, Foster and Lorimer 2011) can bring to the production of taxidermy material culture exhibitions and in turn highlight the potential of the exhibition as an academic research output. Fashioning Feathers… has been researched and designed by so that it can travel and be applied to other millinery and/or zoological collections – if you want the exhibition to take flight contact Merle at

Curator Bios:

Dr Merle Patchett
is a cultural geographer and freelance curator. Her past five years of research were dedicated to the exploration of human and animal lives connected through the cultural practice of taxidermy, and wholly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. For example,
 her PhD project Putting Animals on Display: Geographies of Taxidermy Practice – critically examined the craft worlds and knowledge-practices of taxidermists, past and present, and their material culture of animal remains. Part of the goal of this research was to reassert the value of taxidermy specimens and collections through collaborative exchange with museum practitioners and contemporary artists. The collaboratively curated exhibitions Blue Antelope (2006) and Out of Time (2007) were the practical outcomes of different investigations by geographers and artists into how interest in zoological collections can be reactivated (see Patchett 2007; Patchett 2010; Patchett and Foster 2008; Patchett, Foster and Lorimer 2011).

Merle (left) preparing a Horned Grebe that modelled work from Kate Foster’s BIOGRAPHY OF A LIE collection.

Merle Patchett currently a Lecturer in Human Geography in the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol. Fashioning Feathers… arises out of postdoctoral research carried out by Merle when a Post Doctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta and pre-existing collaborative curatorial relationships and creative work between her and the artists Kate Foster and Andrea RoeTo apply this work to a Western Canadian context and Clothing and Textiles Collection new collaborative working relationships were sought and developed between Patchett and Dr Liz Gomez (who has expertise in Western Canadian cultural history) and staff at the University of Alberta’s Material Culture Institute and Clothing and Textiles Collection.

Dr. Liz Gomez is a researcher/writer/University instructor.  Her doctoral degree (McGill), completed in 2009, explored non-signifying practices in contemporary Canadian art, with a particular focus on how vocal experiences can expand discussions of multi-sensory artistic practices. More recently, this research has provided a critical frame to examine not only contemporary art, but also, historical visual and material culture in the pre and post-industrial eras in terms of affectivity, and sensory encounters. This path of critical exploration has yielded several conference papers and publications

Liz overseeing the placement of specimen labels.

Liz Gomez lives in Edmonton, where she teaches and works in curriculum development at Athabasca University. She has also been working collaboratively on an intervention-based model of curatorial practice.  Her current research interests examine the role of affect and practices of collecting in Western Canada



Artist Bios:

Kate Foster’s artwork looks at how animal and human lives are entwined, in an era of species loss and environmental change. The work included in Fashioning Feathers (‘THE BIOGRAPHY OF A LIE’) was the forerunner of a series of ‘Biogeographies‘. Supported by residencies in Glasgow University (2005) and Stellenbosch University, South Africa (2007) , this project has generated unique histories of zoological specimens – becoming collaborative works extending ‘animal afterlives’ in human settings, which reflect obliquely on how natural history presents its subjects and the contemporary value of these collections.  For example, working with geographers and museum staff, she drew attention to a rare and overlooked skull of an extinct South African antelope in the Hunterian Zoology collection. This led to traverses in time and place, holding hope of generative possibilities within a degrading legacy of loss and humiliation (‘Blue Antelope’). Complementing such archival projects, current work is directed at ‘drawing in the field’ in a rural area of Scotland – creative investigations of land-use, developing sensitivity to ‘changeable places’ and choices that are being made. As an environmental artist, her use of media is flexible and responds to context – documenting interventions and investigations through drawing, photography and writing, made available online. Overall, her work is informed by empirical study but the priority is making visual artwork to engage undisciplined senses (complex and surprising), offering routes to engage with ecological interconnectedness. 

BIOGRAPHY OF A LIE: Egret/Chapeaux © Kate Foster.

Kate Foster’s research skills came through a PhD in social policy, Sterling University (1998) complemented by subsequent artistic training with a BA (Hons – First Class) in Fine Art, Glasgow School of Art (2001). She is currently a tenant of Glasgow Sculpture Studios and Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow. Her work, which as been exhibited internationally, is displayed at:

Andrea Roe’s work examines the nature of human and animal biology, behaviour, communication and interaction within specific ecological contexts. Several residencies have introduced her to very different types of institutions (ranging from the Wellcome Trust to the Crichton Royal Psychiatric Hospital, and the Natural Science Department of National Museums of Scotland) where she has learned about and responded to research projects and collections. Through the media of photography, film, and installed sculpture, Andrea translates scientific research on the physiology of animal behaviour into installations that viewers experience physically as unfamiliar, visceral sensory encounters. Her aim through works like Cat Whisker Corridor, Blackbird Menagerie, Paddling Gull and Kingfisher is to make research discoveries accessible and exciting to those outside the scientific world.

60 Wrens © Andrea Roe. 60 Wrens was inspired by looking into the museum drawers at the National Museums of Scotland and references the roosting behaviour of wrens in the wild.

Andrea Roe currently lives and works in Edinburgh. She studied Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art (1990) and has an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea School of Art (2000).Her work, which has been exhibited internationally, can be viewed at


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