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Illuminating Birds

Drawing as a Way of Knowing
May 20–October 15, 2023 

Illuminating Birds

Illuminating Birds

Part gallery and part studio, Illuminating Birds celebrates the enduring appeal of drawing and writing about birds. Requiring prolonged observation and deep curiosity, drawing — in its ability to distill — contributes to creative insights and scientific understanding.  

Experience avian artworks by Alexander Wilson, Elizabeth and John Gould, John James Audubon, Edward Lear and Louis Agassiz Fuertes from the Academy’s Library and Archives, all documenting the beginnings of the scientific study of birds — and the complex cultural and historical aspects that they carry. Examine colorful, early birding field guides and hand-painted magic lantern slides that demonstrate the role illustration played in popularizing birding and advancing the conservation movement.

All exhibits are included with the purchase of a general admission ticket.

Avian Art Studio 

In the Avian Art Studio, we invite you to try your own hand at drawing or writing about birds while surrounded by inspiring specimens, field notes, an extraordinary “commonplace book,” feathers and creative prompts developed by Drexel’s Writers Room and many others.

Avian Artist in Residence

woman in orange shirt and white overalls stands in front of painting of orange and black butterfly wings

Over the course of the exhibition, avian artist-in-residence Jane Kim, whose work reflects current concerns related to biodiversity loss and climate change, will develop a new public mural for Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood through a joint partnership of the Academy of Natural Sciences and Mural Arts Philadelphia. Follow along with us as the work unfolds!

Exhibit Highlights

Drawing of a Peregrine Falcon by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
A taxidermy great Indian Hornbill.
Sketches of Birds in blue ink, by Ned Smith.