Change in Attitudes 

National Trust, Nunnington Hall open until November 2020

An artistic response to Nunnington Hall’s collection of taxidermy hunting “trophies” and the “Change in Attitudes” towards conservation and hunting.    

In order to better understand the historical context of these hunting trophies and the importance of them within the Nunnington Hall collection, I first wanted to gain a better understanding of the man responsible for the hunting – Col. Ronald Fife. By researching his published memoirs, “Mosaic of Memories”, accessing archives of information held by the National Trust, speaking with knowledgeable volunteers and being given a more personal insight by the Clive family, I was able to put together a picture in my mind of who Col. Fife may have been, and how he and his family may have lived.

The installation is formed in three components:

Rhino Horns: A large scale installation inviting viewers to engage in making choices around collecting and conservation . Inspiration for the largest piece of the installation has been taken from the Black Rhino horn in the collection. There are approximately 5000 black rhinos left in the world, each one represented here by a black porcelain model of a rhino horn, reflecting both Col Fife’s passion for hunting, and his wife Margaret Fife’s collection of ceramics. The installation invites the audience to consider the very human compulsion to collect a “trophy” from places we have visited, and asks you to make a choice. You may take a trophy for yourself, by removing one of the horns and taking it with you. In doing so, you must acknowledge that what you have taken will not be replaced, and you leave less and less for others to experience. If this is the choice you make, you must take ownership and responsibility for your choice, by writing your name in the place of the rhino horn you have taken. Or you can enjoy the installation, take a photo, consider the implications and discussions this may bring to mind, and leave it intact for others to experience.

Footprints: A triptych of wall mounted tiled panels considering changes in attitudes towards conservation of species .

In considering the “Change in Attitudes” towards conservation and big game hunting I took some inspiration from the quote “Take only memories, leave only footprints” widely attributed to Chief Seattle. Taking three examples of animals featured in the taxidermy collection. I approached Flamingo Land zoo to find out more about their efforts towards conservation of the same animals. These tiled panels feature casts take from pugmarks from the zoo, which historically would have been used by hunters to track their quarry.  The tiles feature an abundance of footprints, reducing to fewer and fewer to be found as time passes.

Reflection: Three mirrors containing quotations to “reflect” the character of Col. Fife.  

 After researching Col Fife’s background, it appeared to me that there were three distinct facets recalled of his character: the military leader, the keen hunter, and a devoted and loving husband and father. To convey these different aspects to Col Fife, I have created three mirrors, each engraved with a quote to “reflect” on these different aspects of who he was. These more personal pieces are displayed in Col Fife’s bedroom, considering which version of himself he saw when he looked into the mirror.

Photography credit Anthony Chappel Ross, copyright National Trust

Project made possible with support from: