If you want to check out a book, you go to the nearest public library. If you want to check out a piece of taxidermy, you go to the Alaska Resources Library and Information Services (ARLIS) at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.
The library houses hundreds of taxidermied specimens, from fawns to snowy owls, sandhill cranes, and harlequin rockfish. Unsurprisingly, it’s the only known library in the US to contain such a collection, as well as lend the pieces to anyone with an Anchorage public library card.
Usually, the specimens in the ARLIS collection would be found behind glass cases in a museum, but ARLIS combines the resources of several government agencies, including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, to make them more accessible to the public.
If you’re wondering what kind of people regularly patronize the strange ARLIS collection, it’s actually not as bizarre as you think. Mainly, it’s local teachers, biologists, and researchers, who incorporate the animals into their lessons or academic work. Professional wildlife staff also use select items when doing presentations to the public. But individuals also borrow them for non-educational purposes. “We have a snowy owl,” said Rozen to Smithsonian “that has been used on several occasions as a decoration for a Harry Potter-themed party.”
Most of the collection comes from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and public donations. “Earlier today,” said Rozen, “someone called me and offered us a raven that he found in the wild that had been killed.”
The only item in the ARLIS not available for check-out is the black bear due to its hulking size. Check out the taxidermy catalogue to know what they have on the shelves.