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It’s easy to dismiss a taxidermist’s work as simple stuffing: Gut it, fill it, present it—there’s more art in Thanksgiving dinner, right? John Matthews would disagree. He’s the head of a team that was responsible for renovating historic and mounted specimens collected by the Smithsonian from zoos and research facilities around the world. In other words, Matthews & Co. took the remains of nearly 300 animals and brought them as back-to-life as they could possibly be. The group spent two years sculpting the animals’ bodies from foam and clay—and that was before they spent weeks adding various extremities. Ever seen anyone—except, of course, John Madden—add a limb to a turkey? Didn’t think so. The fruits of the taxidermists’ labor—274 meticulously repaired dead things—are currently on display in the National Museum of Natural History’s Mammal Hall. You should go see them, if for no other reason than to be prepared for Matthews’ upcoming lecture at the Baird Auditorium—which will undoubtedly add volumes to the layman’s knowledge of taxidermy. At the very least, Matthews will dispel any notions anyone might have about his job being easy. He gives his lecture at noon Friday, Aug. 13, at the National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 633-1000. (Mike Kanin)