Raymond Bandar was an artist, a teacher, a naturalist and a member of the California Academy of Sciences. He created a “Bone Palace” as his San Francisco home, a collection of close to 7,000 skulls and skeletons.
My life long attraction to all things natural history led me to Bandar and his Bone Palace in 2010. I visited him and his wife Alkmene, also an artist, and spent days photographing him and his collection. While I did my work, Bandar told me stories about how he came across different skulls and skeletons in his collection. Every bone had personal significance to him as well as scientific value.
I joined Bandar on a specimen collecting trip that the California Academy of Sciences asked him to take in order to collect a dead sea otter. That day we found three carcasses. I shot video of Bandar as he removed the skulls and penis bones of each of the specimens to take back with him. He explained that is where the most important natural history information is stored.
To me, Bandar was a rockstar among natural historians beocasue of his passion and body of work. Bandar’s Bone Palace is a work of genius by a man who defied classification.
Bandar’s Bone Palace has the spirit of eighteenth and 19th century naturalist’ Cabinet of Curiosities. In this video Bandar explained his motivation for collecting and preparing the specimens and shares antidotes about where he got individual specimens. The video ends showing him in action collection specimens that he was permitted to do under state and federal law in Northern California. His collection is a great asset for generations to come.