James Hill Taxidermy Collection

A rare collection that provides us with an insight into the detail of many bird, reptile and egg species… some now extinct.

James Hill – his life


Born St Albans, Hertfordshire England. Arrived in Geelong with parents when 5 years old.


Left Geelong with parents and brother, Joseph. Travelling with 3 horses, a wagon, axe, crosscut saw, a hammer and a supply of nails, arrived at Kewell, where they built a log water tank and began the tough task of starting a farm.

The Hill family were one of the first settlers at Kewell, located between Murtoa and Minyip.

At the age of 26 James married Helen Gardiner, they had 5 daughters.

James Hill the man was never idle. He was a farmer, carpenter, mechanic, blacksmith, photographer, musician, composer, a prolific reader, self-taught linguist, a naturalist – contributing many articles to the ‘Victorian Naturalist’ magazine and an ornithologist – a member of many national and international societies.

James travelled by buggy and later by train to talk to school children about the habits of birds, insects and animals.

James continued to farm at Kewell for 50 years.


James retired and lived with his daughter, Elsie Newell in Murtoa. James died in 1932 at the age of 82 years.

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James hill taxidermy collection

1875 – 1932

The collection consists of over 600 birds, reptiles and bird egg specimens.

As a testament to his skill, most of these specimens are over 100 years old and still in a remarkable condition.

The private collection is reputed to be one of the best in Victoria, if not Australia. He had contacts with missionaries in Africa, Brazil, India and New Guinea and by making donations he would receive specimens. James also swapped specimens with other naturalists in Australia.

The collection is noted for its uniqueness. The National Museum of Victoria acquired some of the mammals (Pig Footed bandicoot, Rufus Rat Kangaroo, Gunn’s Bandicoot, White Stripe Bat and an Eastern Native Cat) for research as they are thought to be extinct or extremely rare.

After James Hill retired from farming, displayed the collection in his daughter’s private residence until his death in 1932.

In 1981 Roy Newell (James’s grandson) offered the collection to the Lions Club of Murtoa Inc when an official permit from the then Fisheries & Wildlife Department was issued.

The Lions Club later handed on the collection to the Murtoa & District Historical Society who now hold the wildlife licence to display the collection in the Old Water Tower of the Murtoa Museum precinct.

A booklet containing the full account of James Hill with a complete list of birds is available.