Stuffed hare from Booth Museum stars in His Dark Materials - Museums Association

Stuffed hare from Booth Museum stars in His Dark Materials

Taxidermy model used for CGI character in BBC adaptation
Tv and Film
Yosola Olorunshola
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A taxidermy hare from Brighton’s Booth Museum has secured a starring role in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

The Victorian-era natural history museum loaned a stuffed hare to the TV production company Bad Wolf Productions, which used the model as inspiration for the character of Hester – an arctic hare voiced by American comedian Cristela Alonzo.

Hester represents the daemon of leading character Lee Scoresby, an aeronaut and explorer played by Lin-Manuel Miranda. In Pullman’s universe, daemons are animals that represent the soul of the humans they belong to.

The hare was digitally transformed into the character on screen using CGI technology.

“The items were scanned and digitised in top secret around two years ago,” said Lee Ismail, the curator of natural sciences at the Booth Museum. “Staff at the museum were not allowed to reveal our involvement until the series had been officially unveiled.”  

Several other items in the collection were borrowed by the production company to populate the animal world of the series, including moths and stag beetles.

One of the moths found its moment in the spotlight when it appeared in a crucial scene of the first episode, as a version of the main character Lyra’s daemon.

The items were borrowed from the museum’s loan collection, a collection of specimens without scientific data used for outreach and available for artists, teachers and others to borrow for a small fee. This means that any possible damage would not affect the museum’s research collection.  

“The loan service itself is a great way to get specimens which have little use to the scientific collections used by a variety of people – artists have created some fantastic works based on our loan items, whilst fashion students have used them to inspire new fabric patterns and colours,” Ismail said.

This is not the first time that taxidermy animals from the museum’s collection have had their 15 minutes of fame. A badger from the Booth Museum was digitised for the Prince Caspian film in 2008, which became a popular display in the museum.

“Popular culture is a great way to get people enthusiastic about an object, which hopefully encourages them to look at the other specimens on display and discover other things that fascinate them,” Ismail said.

The arctic hare is now back on display at the museum to welcome fans of His Dark Materials.

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