Artifact Title: Banff Merman
Artwork Title: The Banff Merman
Location: Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Year of Acquisition: 1915
Image Credit: Flickr: Banff Lake Louise, 2007. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode): no modifications to the original image have been made.
TERA Curator: Amanda Nichols
The skeletal frame of a mythological half-human, half-fish known as the Banff Merman can be found tucked eerily in the back corner of a tourist trading post shop in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Myths about the Banff Merman are prolific in regional folklore, and tell of indigenous sightings of merpeople and water spirits that inhabit the lake. This piece, however, has its own unique history, and is thought to have been acquired by Norman Luxton, the original owner of the shop, around 1915. It began as a prank that P.T. Barnum played on his partner James Anthony Bailey of the now famous circus duo, Barnum and Bailey. This image inspires numerous questions about human evolution, connections between human and non-human species, myth making, and deep fakes.