Category — Passenger Pigeon
We are excited to announce that the Cincinnati Zoo has received a grant of $149,814 over two years from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) 2015 Museums for America program in the Learning Experiences category. The grant will support the reinterpretation of our Wings of the World exhibit to connect families to nature through birds and inspire them to become better bird neighbors.
Children spend half as much time outdoors today as they did only 20 years ago. Instead they spend nearly eight hours a day watching TV, playing video games and engaging with other electronic media. And it’s not just kids – families, too, spend less time together in nature.This diminished exposure to the outdoors can result in feeling isolated from nature rather than connected to it and thus, less concerned about its well-being and unmotivated to take responsibility for it.
Why is it important to connect to nature? The costs of “nature-deficit disorder,” coined by child advocacy expert Richard Louv, are serious and many, from increases in obesity and mental health ailments to a lack of environmental stewardship. Participating in “wild nature activities” as a child is directly linked to developing concern for the environment as an adult. In addition to positive experiences in nature, going outdoors with someone who plays a significant role in a child’s life, such as a parent or grandparent, is a significant factor in shaping environmentally aware adults.
In addition, concerns about the safety of sending our children out to play in nature—strangers, traffic, broken bones, snake bites, mosquito-spread viruses—also play into the problem. For those whose fears of safety keep them from exploring the woods or even a local park, zoos can bridge the gap and provide a safe outdoor environment for nature exploration.
Birds are all around us. We share our forests, parks, cities and backyards with them. Thus, they provide a familiar and universal entry point for establishing connections with nature. “In an age when we experience so much of our world through glass – screens, windows, windshields – birds are a vital connection to the wild. They reach across any barrier, flitting, surprising, and dazzling, always there to refresh my sense of wonder” – Thor Hanson, author of Feathers, The Evolution of a Natural Miracle.
In 2014, the Zoo commemorated the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon with a renovation of our Passenger Pigeon Memorial. In this historic structure, the last known living passenger pigeon, named Martha, passed away on September 1, 1914. It was the first documented extinction of a species at the hand of man due to commercial-scale harvest and habitat loss. The passenger pigeon’s extinction spurred the modern conservation movement that saved other imperiled species from the same fate, including the bald eagle and wild turkey.
Today, birds still face threats to their survival, with climate change at the top of the list. A recent study by the National Audubon Society classifies more than 300 North American bird species as severely threatened by climate change. Reinterpreting our Wings of the World exhibit is a natural next step for our Zoo to carry on the legacy of the passenger pigeon and encourage our visitors to be better bird neighbors.
In 2013, the Zoo completed an IMLS-funded reinterpretation of our Jungle Trails primate exhibit, and in May 2014, that exhibit won the American Alliance of Museums’ 2014 Excellence in Exhibition Award for Special Distinction, Exemplary Model of Creating Experience for Social Engagement. The reinterpretation of the Wings of the World exhibit will build on that success and apply what we learned about engaging families through that project.
Over the next two years, we plan to update the messaging and create a family-friendly learning environment that engages intergenerational groups in shared experiences focused on forging relationships between guests and their new feathered friends. As we research, plan, develop, design, implement and evaluate the project, we will call for your participation as guests and followers to ensure that your needs and voices are integrated. We hope that you will follow us along on this blog series and contribute as opportunities arise.
In the meantime, look up to the sky, the treetops, the building ledges, the electrical wires, and all around you, and take note of the variety of birds with which we share our space. You might even consider participating in National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count this month. This early winter bird census relies on volunteers from all over the country. Learn more about how you can help as a citizen scientist and register for the event here.
This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.
December 10, 2015 No Comments
Numbering in the billions in 1800, the passenger pigeon was formerly one of the most abundant bird species on Earth. On September 1, 1914, Martha, the last known passenger pigeon, passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo after tireless efforts over several years to find her a mate.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Martha’s passing in 2014, the Zoo renovated its Passenger Pigeon Memorial, transforming it from a single-species memorial to an educational exhibit with a positive and hopeful conservation message that segues from the story of the passenger pigeon to modern wildlife conservation efforts.
A small crowd of Zoo visitors and staff along with media representatives gathered at 11:00 AM on September 1, 2014, as Zoo Director Thane Maynard dedicated the Memorial and officially reopened its newly restored doors. Watch the dedication video here.
Visitors to the Memorial are greeted by a large reproduction of John Ruthven’s 2013 painting of Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon on the entry wall.
A display case on the back side of the entry wall contains a reprint of John J. Audubon’s Passenger Pigeon hand-colored engraving from The Birds of America, along with an actual net used to catch passenger pigeons, a platform stool to which blinded pigeons were tied as decoys, a cast model of a passenger pigeon and an Aldo Leopold quote.
Interpretively, the exhibition flows from left to right along the interior walls, circulating around an octagonal case in the center of the building containing passenger pigeon sculptures carved by Gary Denzler.
Signage was designed based on elements from Ruthven’s painting with pop-up panels featuring colorful images and text. The first wall tells the story of the passenger pigeon and its extinction, why it happened, and the scope of this loss.
Next, it describes how the passenger pigeon’s extinction was a wake-up call that spurred the conservation movement in America, highlighting the stories of native species that were nearly lost, such as white-tailed deer.
The last wall introduces conservation champions of the Zoo and presents examples of how we are working to save species today, including the Sumatran rhino and the American burying beetle, from going the way of the passenger pigeon.
The rehabilitation of this historic building and exhibit was made possible through the generosity of the H.B., E.W. and F.R. Luther Charitable Trust Foundation, Fifth Third Bank, and Narley L. Haley, Co-Trustees.
September 10, 2014 2 Comments
We’ve been busy! Here’s an update on various projects and events we’ve been working on surrounding the commemoration of the centennial of the passenger pigeon’s extinction on September 1:
Passenger Pigeon Memorial Renovation
The Passenger Pigeon Memorial itself is of historic importance. Built for the September 18, 1875 opening of the Zoo, it is the last remaining in a series of seven rectangular pagoda-type, tile-roofed buildings connected by wire summer cages in a complex 320 feet long, known as the Aviary or “Old Bird Run.” The center building, larger than the others, was more elaborate, with pediments on each facade, and a short square tower capped with a pseudo-onion dome. The six smaller units of the Aviary were demolished in 1974-75. The large central pavilion, which was the actual final home of Martha, was retained, moved about 50 feet northwest of its original location, and restored as the Passenger Pigeon Memorial, opening in 1977. Collectively with the Zoo’s Reptile House – the nation’s oldest Zoo building – and the Elephant House, built in 1906, the Passenger Pigeon Memorial constitutes the Zoo’s designation as a National Historic Landmark.
A reproduction of John Ruthven’s recently completed painting of Martha – the Last Passenger Pigeon, will draw visitors’ attention from the main Zoo path.
Inside the building, updated lighting and ceiling treatment will brighten up the space. All new interpretive signage will comprise flat wall panels featuring rich visual images and appropriate narrative.
Artifacts such as a net and stool pigeon and wood carvings of a pair of passenger pigeons by our own Gary Denzler will be presented in the exhibit as well.
The update will speak to the conservation of endangered species, using the story of the passenger pigeon as a lesson from the past for a sustainable future. First, it will explain the story of the passenger pigeon and its extinction, why it happened, and the scope of this loss. Next, the exhibit will describe how the passenger pigeon’s extinction was a wake-up call that spurred the conservation movement in America, highlighting the stories of native species that were nearly lost, such as white-tailed deer. Then, the exhibit will present examples of species’ conservation efforts in which the Zoo is involved, including the Sumatran rhino and Autumn buttercup. Finally, the exhibition will invite visitors to get involved.
The dedication of the newly renovated exhibit will take place on September 1 beginning at 12:30.
Fold the Flock: Paper Pigeons
We are in the midst of a folding frenzy! Thousands of paper passenger pigeons are being folded by summer campers, visitors, staff and volunteers, which will be suspended from the ceiling of the Education Center at the Zoo later this month.
Add your pigeon to the flock! Download the foldable passenger pigeon template, print it off (double-sided, 11 X 17, full color is best) and fold it. Then send it or bring it to the Education Center at the Zoo to be hung with thousands of others before September 1.
Passenger Pigeon Memorial Weekend
Along with the Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS), the Zoo is hosting a Passenger Pigeon Weekend symposium at the Zoo on August 29 & 30. Friday night will be a “Martinis with Martha” fundraiser to benefit the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) and the OOS Conservation Fund with food, drinks, live music and guest presentations. Saturday morning brings an assemblage of guest speakers with stories about lessons learned from the passenger pigeon, including Joel Greenberg (author of A Feathered River Across the Sky), wildlife artist John Ruthven, Jim McCormac (author of Wild Ohio: The Best of our Natural Heritage) and Zoo Horticulturist Brian Jorg. And much, much more!
Registration is now open! Purchase your tickets here.
Barrows Conservation Lecture Series
On September 3, wildlife artist John Ruthven will speak as part of the Barrows Conservation Lecture Series at the Zoo. John Ruthven, naturalist, author, lecturer, and internationally acknowledged master of wildlife art, is often called the “20th Century Audubon.”
In 1974, John spearheaded the effort to save the last of the Zoo’s 19th Century bird pagoda’s – the one where “Martha,” the last of the passenger pigeons, had once lived. Through his leadership, and the sale of prints of his painting of “Martha,” the Zoo’s Passenger Pigeon Memorial was created.
Today, John has taken it a giant step forward, with his painting, “Martha – The Last Passenger Pigeon.” This print will be available for sale before and after his lecture. The price is $200.00. All prints are signed and numbered. The size is 30 x 20 inches.
Purchase tickets to John Ruthven’s lecture here.
To read the other posts in this series, click here.
August 25, 2014 No Comments