Monday, December 24, 2012

A Celebration of Birds--John James Audubon Exhibition

We went into Ely to get ready for some Christmas festivities. One of our stops was to the ever-favorite East Ely Railroad Museum, located at the Nevada Northern Railway. I had seen flyers about an exhibition of John James Audubon and The Birds of America exhibition. While the kids watched The Polar Express, my husband and I enjoyed the marvelous paintings.

Many paintings showed birds we see in the area, like an osprey and a white-headed eagle, now known as a bald eagle. I didn't know much about John James Audubon, so I appreciated the information provided.

Audubon was born in Haiti (with a different name) and raised in France and didn't come to the U.S. until he was 18, in 1803. Lands west of the Mississippi had just been sold to the U.S. by France as a condition of the Louisiana Purchase. Audubon explored these frontier lands, collecting and drawing birds of these places. He had little formal training in birds or drawing, but his close attention to detail helped him immensely. He was also a very good hunter, and he shot the birds before he drew and painted them. In the 1830s, Audubon began commenting on the decline of some birds from overhunting, namely passenger pigeons. His name began to be associated with conservation.

The painting above shows ivory-billed woodpeckers. Another showed passenger pigeons. When I look at the paintings I'm sad that I'll never get to see these birds in real life.

The above painting showed a bird I saw recently on our trip: an anhinga, known better in the 1800s as
the black-bellied darter.

The exhibit will be at the East Ely Railroad Museum until January 6. It's free! Open 8-4:30 every day but Tuesday. They have a really nice brochure that goes with the exhibition and has a map of Important Bird Areas in Nevada and activities for kids, as well as a guide to bird identification.

To read a little more about how the exhibition came to be, here's an article in the Elko Daily Free Press.

1 comment:

Mel Burke said...

Visited Ely when I was a street kid in Chicago maybe 50 years ago. Nothing like this railroad museum in those days :)

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