In August of 1974 the third annual National Taxidermy Association convention was underway in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The fledgling organization had been going through some growing pains since its inception two years earlier in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Dissent among the board had already lead to some major disagreements about the direction the NTA would take, but one thing all of the new board members agreed upon was the establishment of some sort of Hall of Fame for taxidermy. They envisioned a beautiful museum with marble floors, ornate pillars, and plaques honoring noteworthy taxidermists. They pictured a great hall, like New York City’s Akeley African Hall in the American Museum of Natural History, featuring impressive works of taxidermy to be dramatically displayed for the public. Boardmember Norm Myer was tasked with searching for a suitable location.
For the next forty years, officers of The National Taxidermists Hall of Fame and Museum Foundation diligently tried to achieve this vision. Several promising sites were pursued. Specimen donations were collected. Many strong personalities attempted to advance the cause. Eventually, the Hall of Fame was separated from the NTA and became an autonomous not-for-profit organization. It often seemed as though the foundation was right on the brink of bringing their vision of a physical Hall of Fame to fruition, but for every hopeful lead, there was an unexpected setback, and over the years the dream of a great hall filled with taxidermy gradually diminished. As the decades passed, the Hall of Fame was slowly slipping out of prominence and relevance.
In 2014, the board members of the The National Taxidermists Hall of Fame and Museum Foundation approached Larry Blomquist, Publisher of Breakthrough Magazine and Chairman of the World Taxidermy Championships®, about passing on this honored organization to a new board and bringing it into the new millennium with a revised direction. Larry was anxious to see the original purpose of the Hall of Fame renewed, honoring the people who have made significant contributions to the taxidermy profession. Three new board members were appointed for this task: Mike Oropallo of New York, Skip Skidmore of Utah, and Ken Edwards of Georgia.
At the first meeting of the new Board of Directors in Atlanta, the mission of the Hall of Fame was solidified. The first decision by the new board was to change the name to the Taxidermy Hall of Fame, to reflect the international scope and inclusive nature of the organization. The mission of the Hall of Fame would be to celebrate and preserve the history of taxidermy and to honor its pioneers and innovators. The board was selected to pursue this task without political influence, personal agendas, business interests, or hidden motives. It was decided that the selection process for future inductees would be both transparent and comprehensive. A five-member advisory board and a selection committee of up to twenty members was selected from a broad spectrum of international candidates. These committee members will be announced very soon.
It was also decided that instead of a physical museum, the main presence for the Hall of Fame would exist as a new website devoted to honoring both past and future inductees as well as other features highlighting the history of taxidermy.
Here is the announcement that Larry made in the Winter 2017 issue of Breakthrough:
Taxidermy Hall of Fame Announcement
by Larry Blomquist, Chairman
It is my pleasure to announce the reorganization of the National Taxidermists Hall of Fame and Museum Foundation, now renamed the Taxidermy Hall of Fame.
Around two years ago I was approached by Rod Connelly, the Chairman of the NTHOFMF, and Dana Poust, board member, to assist in leading and reorganizing the NTHOFMF in a refreshed direction.
After many years of dedicated service it was Rod’s and Dana’s wish to bring in new ideas and goals for this honored organization. Their resignations were accepted with regrets by the new board they appointed. Much more will be written about their and others’ service, leadership, and accomplishment in their tenure as directors of the NTHOFF at a future time.
The new board consists of Larry Blomquist of Louisiana, Ken Edwards of Georgia, Mike Oropallo of New York, and Skip Skidmore of Utah. The new board elected me as the new chairman and Mike Oropallo as secretary/treasurer.
The changeover began in 2015 and it took several months to finalize legal requirements so that the new board could formulate its mission and goals for restructuring and moving forward, including changing the name to the Taxidermy Hall of Fame. The THOF remains a 501c3 non-profit organization.
During the first official meeting of the BOD in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 20, 2016, many important decisions were made regarding the purpose, function, and future of the THOF. Its mission will be international and inclusive in scope, and its main purpose will be to give this highest honor to extraordinary contributors in the field of taxidermy. It is also important to note that the board will honor all previous inductees into the original NTHOFMF. The hallmark of the THOF will be a website honoring past and future inductees and will include many more special features and historical aspects about taxidermy.
The board of directors voted to establish an advisory board, which includes up to 5 members appointed by the THOF board, and a selection committee consisting of up to 20 members, which will include the 5 advisory board members plus 15 additional appointed members by the BOD.
It was also decided that with the restructuring nearly complete, the board felt it was time to move forward with an initial nomination and selection process for potential THOF inductees that will be for the inductee class of 2017. This initial process, which is underway now and nearly complete, will be used only for the class of 2017.
Future classes, which will be inducted every other year, will allow for anyone to submit nominations, and these nominations will be considered by the selection committee and passed on for a vote by the procedures established by the board of directors. The nomination and voting procedure will be published on the Taxidermy Hall of Fame website in the near future.
The 10 finalists for 2017 will soon be announced through the www.taxidermy.net website, and the final selected class of up to 4 new inductees for 2017 will be announced during the Award Ceremony of the World Taxidermy Championships.
The installment ceremony will be part of the 2017 National Taxidermists Association convention banquet on July 15, 2017, in Salt Lake City/Layton, Utah.
Much more will be announced in the coming weeks and months about the Taxidermy Hall of Fame and its newest inductees. The THOF website is being developed by Ken Edwards and should be available soon with the initial information on the direction and goals of what will be a historical website of our art, profession and industry worldwide. It will take time for this new website to grow, but in today’s world, we feel this is the best way to honor those who have made a honorable impression on taxidermy.
The second meeting of the Board of Directors was held in Houston, Texas, on March 9, 2017. Details were addressed and further plans were made. After many years of relative dormancy, 2017 saw four new inductees into the Taxidermy Hall of Fame.
The four inductees for the class of 2017 were formally installed in the Hall of Fame during the NTA banquet in Layton, Utah, on July 15, 2017.
The third annual meeting of the Board of Directors was held in Houston in March of 2018. The fourth annual meeting was held in Houston on March 16, 2019.
The fifth annual meeting was held on March 14, 2020 in Houston, Texas, days before the country was shut down by COVID-19.
It is our sincere hope that the Taxidermy Hall of Fame will become a key element in teaching and promoting the heritage of the art of taxidermy while promoting its influential personalities, significant achievements and important events, as well as being a clearinghouse for information honoring those who came before us and had an impact on our profession.