This paper examines the movements and transformations embodied in an African bull elephant on display in the Gothenburg Museum of Natural History, Sweden. The elephant was collected and mounted by taxidermist, photographer and naturalist David Sjölander (1886–1953). The elephant mount is considered to be one of the best in the world. A plethora of meaning usually disappears when an animal is inserted in a natural history collection. Presenting and ordering of nature sets the embedding of the natural history museum in culture and society away. However, the motives and actions that killed the old bull elephant and moved it from West Africa to Gothenburg were deeply embedded in the collecting tradition of the natural history museum, in the professional
climate in the museum and in the spirit of the taxidermist.


natural history museums, animal studies, museology, elephants, collecting

How to Cite

Thorsen L. E. (2012) “A SUPREME ELEPHANT”, Ethnologia Europaea. 42(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/ee.1088

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


Liv Emma Thorsen (University of Oslo)




Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

Peer Review

This article has been peer reviewed.

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