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Curiouser and curiouser

Giant stuffed walrus
Giant stuffed walrus

A giant stuffed walrus — weighing in at just under a tonne — has arrived in the county. The huge beast has been in London’s Horniman Museum since 1901, moving just 25 feet during that time.

Now it has travelled 70 miles to Margate’s Turner Contemporary, where it will feature in the exhibition Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing, which opens on Saturday, May 25.

The Turner’s head of exhibitions, Sarah Martin said: “Rodin’s The Kiss sculpture was heavy, but physically the walrus is the biggest single object we have had at the gallery since opening.”

And moving the walrus proved a mammoth challenge.

Preparations began with the walrus being given its annual clean, and the larger pieces of its ‘iceberg’ moved away.

It was then lifted out of the gallery over the other exhibits before being carefully packaged into a crate - its tusks bandaged for protection - and taken in a lorry on the two hour drive to Kent.

Jo Hatton, keeper of natural history at the Horniman, said: “The walrus is very dear to us, so we were careful to make sure he could travel safely without getting damaged. And we wanted him to be in tip-top condition to meet his new audiences.”

She added: “He’s missing his walrus wrinkles, because at the time he was mounted very few people had seen a live walrus.”

Other exhibits in the Hayward Touring exhibition, created in collaboration with Turner Contemporary and curated by Brian Dillon, include a penguin brought back from one of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions, on loan from the Powell-Cotton Museum at Birchington; the tusk of a narwhal from Canterbury’s Beaney Museum; Albrecht Dürer’s celebrated rhinoceros woodcut; bird studies by the gallery’s namesake JMW Turner; and late 19th century models of aquatic creatures by German glassmakers Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka.

The walrus had with protection for its tusks on its travels
The walrus had with protection for its tusks on its travels

Ms Martin added: “It is a really interesting exhibition, due to the sheer range of objects on show, things you would never see together. I think visitors are going to enjoy it.”

Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing runs until Sunday, September 15. The gallery opens from 10am to 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday and bank holidays. Admission is free. Call 01843 233000.

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