Programs & Exhibitions

Amphibians and Reptiles Exhibitions

The cases housing the amphibian and reptile exhibits are at the rear of the museum’s first floor. There are a number of table cases created by Harold Clement in the 1930s under the direction of curator M. Graham Netting. The cases contain Pennsylvania frogs, salamanders, lizards, and turtles as well as harmless and venomous snakes. Crocodilians are displayed in two areas of the museum; a pair of impressive Nile crocodiles on the first floor rear, and an American alligator mount in the PNC Center for Museum Education. Both exhibits were donated by Dr. Jan Seski.

There is also a small case of timber rattlesnakes on the second floor that were collected in Ohiopyle and mounted by museum taxidermist Gustav A. Link, Sr. Think of this case as a cautionary tale to always treat venomous snakes with great care. The following was published in Annals of Carnegie Museum, 11: 5–7.

Obituary Notes
by W. J. Holland
Gustav Adolph Link, Senior
Born May 15, 1860
Died August 16, 1916

At half past five o’clock on the morning of August 16, 1916, Mr. Gustav A. Link, Sr., died at Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh. He had been bitten about the middle finger of the afternoon of the day before by a rattlesnake, which six years before he had captured at Ohiopyle Falls, and had since kept as a “pet” in a cage in the Taxidermic Laboratory of the Museum, and which, in spite of warning and protests of his superior officers, he had come to handle with more or less familiarity, not unmingled with contempt. He had successfully administered remedies on two occasions to associates when they had been bitten by venomous snakes, and had treated himself with success in the past, when bitten, and in conversation used to make light of injuries of this sort. For many years he had made it a practice to carry the necessary antidotes in his vest-pocket, but for some months before the accident he had neglected to do so. He was bitten on August 15, while he was talking to a company of students from the University of Pittsburgh, who had been given permission to visit the Taxidermic Laboratory. 

The snake, which he had been handling with his accustomed fearlessness, as he was putting it back into its cage, struck him on the index finger of the right hand. One of the students called attention to a drop of blood upon Mr. Link’s finger, and asked him if he had not been bitten. He evaded the question, and stated that he had scratched his finger. He continued to talk with the boys for fully half an hour afterwards, and only after they had withdrawn did he admit to his associate in the laboratory that he had been bitten. Every effort was made to arrest and counteract the effects of the poison. A ligature was applied well up upon the arm, the wound was scored and a quantity of blood was removed by sucking and by free bleeding. Antidotes were also applied externally and administered internally. Medical aid was instantly summoned.  

Dr. C. H. Eigenmann by long distance telephone succeeded in reaching Mr. Raymon L. Ditmars, of the New York Zoological Garden, who promptly sent a supply of antitoxin serum at the hands of the conductor of the first fast express train from New York to Pittsburgh. This did not reach the city until after midnight on the 16th, and although administered as soon as it came to hand, the case being already beyond control....