Unique collection of taxidermied birds part of St. Marys Museum’s 2023 seminar series

Unique collection of taxidermied birds part of St Marys Museums

A century-old collection of taxidermied birds will be part of the St. Marys Museum’s upcoming seminar series, including its passenger pigeon – a specimen collected before the once-abundant species was hunted out of existence.

The North American passenger pigeon has been extinct for more than 100 years but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re impossible to find.

There’s even one in St. Marys.

A century-old collection of taxidermied birds will be part of an upcoming seminar series at the St. Marys Museum’s, including its passenger pigeon – a specimen collected before the once-abundant species was hunted out of existence.

“It is really unique that we have one here,” curator assistant Emily Taylor said Tuesday while she stood in a popular corner of the museum known as the Bird Room. “A lot of those kinds of extinct species that were collected over time, we only have these (old) specimens of them. That’s the way we’re able to study them and learn more about them.”

The birds and other local wildlife in the collection – there are more than 70 species in total, including a bald eagle and great blue heron – were once owned privately before being displayed for years inside a local high school. Today, museum staff carefully take care of the collection, which must remain in its display cases because of the chemicals used during the taxidermy process.

“A lot of these objects were treated with arsenic, so we have to be really conscientious of the kinds of preservation methods that were done (at the time),” Taylor said. “People are always really taken back when they walk into this room. (The animals are) really, really interesting. The way that they’re mounted is really neat as well. Having these kinds of landscapes with the dried plants I think is very (reminiscent) of the time period.”

The museum’s seminar on the history and care of the collection will happen April 20. The presentation by Taylor and Amy Cubberley, the town’s cultural services manager, will also include more info about notable local birds and tips about responsible bird watching.

Birding isn’t the only topic the museum is preparing to cover when this year’s seminar series launches next week.

The first talk March 16 will be about the history of theater in St. Marys. Taylor, along with Sophie Thorpe, the museum’s curatorial and programming assistant, and Janis Fread, from St. Marys Community Players, will discuss the role theater has played in bringing the community together at both town hall and the former opera house before it closed.

Recent renovations to historic buildings in St. Marys will be the topic of discussion May 18 when Melissa Barton of Riverwalk Commons, Gail Kenworthy-Foreman and Andy Foreman of Forman Electric, and Erin and Ryan Leaman of Broken Rail Brewing will discuss their heritage-saving projects.

“St. Marys is so proud of (its) built heritage in the community,” said Taylor, adding it’s part of Stonetown’s identity. “I think it’s important for us to be able to showcase some successful projects and how they were able to incorporate these heritage elements.”

The annual seminars – launched in 2011 – are important fundraisers for the museum. Tickets for each event are $12 for the general public and $10 for museum members.

For more information or to register, call 519-284-3556 or email [email protected]

“It’s great to be able to bring people back into the museum to have these discussions about sharing our community’s history,” Taylor said.

[email protected]


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