Sometimes I forget how lucky I am that I get to go to different museums and be outside during the work day, especially now that spring has sprung. Just a few days ago, I noticed our grounds crew installing some new statues in the Enid A. Haupt Garden and decided to investigate. As it turns out, these sculptures are part of The Lost Birds Project created by artist Todd McGrain in memory of modern North American birds driven to extinction by humans. It aims to remind us of this great loss and raise awareness of the actions we take that endanger plants and animals. It also is the precursor to our upcoming exhibit Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America.
The Enid A. Haupt Gardens
There are five different statues: the Carolina Parakeet (extinct 1918), the Labrador Duck (extinct 1878), the Great Auk (extinct 1844), the Heath Hen (extinct 1932), and the Passenger Pigeon (extinct 1914). All but the Passenger Pigeon are in the Enid A. Haupt Gardens, with former located right next to the Natural History Museum on 12th street. Each of these statues is quite large, but yet not imposing. At about the size of a large man, the statues seem like they are meant to raise the profile of these small birds in order to remind us of their importance and beauty and raise awareness that all living things deserve to thrive in their natural environment. Another really cool part of the project is at the Passenger Pigeon statue. Called Fold the Flock, it’s an attempt to recreate the massive flocks (in 1866, witnesses saw a flock a mile wide and 300 miles long) of this species through origami. This is a great interactive way to show that no matter how many thousands we fold, we’re not even close to the size of one flock. It shows us man’s destructive powers that we were able to kill off such a massive population.
This project isn’t solely meant to be depressing. The locations of the statues allow us to be out in the beautiful gardens, surrounded by nature while we ponder our place in the world. This project does not beat you over the head with man’s role in these extinctions; it instead acts as a reminder that while you are in our wonderful gardens to not forget about our impact on all of nature. Even if conservation projects don’t interest you our gardens are still of interest. Open daily and beautifully manicured, it’s always nice and relaxing to take a nice stroll though. There are even events like Garden Fest, coming up on May 9th, to help educate us about ourselves and nature. Of course, after a nice walk through the gardens it’s always nice to be next to all of our museums!