Writing the Motmot

The fabulous field equipment!
The fabulous field equipment

I’m hip-deep in writing exhibit labels and panels for the big SNOMNH Exhibit. Gearing up, putting my field stuff in “the bubble” (a fumigating process, museum protocol for exhibit objects. Stuff like my mint tin watercolor kit, field easel, pencils, boots, shoulder bag, etc. See photo above) before they are put on view in an official museum glass case. We are busy with floor plans and wall layouts. Time is squeezing tight. Opening day is October 10.

Bird skins for the exhibit
Bird skins for the exhibit

Yesterday the curator of SNOMNH’s bird collection, Tamaki Yuri, and I went through the birds of the world cabinets and we picked out a grouping of skins for a second glass case. My sketchbooks have been unbound and will be framed on the walls, and the birds here are pictured in my drawings and paintings.

The exhibit labels are taken from my field notes and include fun things like this:

“One of the field station’s pets was a huge Blue and Yellow Macaw, which talked a lot and occasionally screamed like a little girl.
Amazon, January 2009

“What Is It About Motmots? since their calls are ventriloquial, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere, it’s really tough to find them by sound. You spend a lot of time scanning for a motmot, which will almost invariably fly the moment you spot it. They are watching you, too. Barro Colorado Island, June 2005

Research and reading material has been helpful. The Ecology of a Tropical Forest: Seasonal Rhythms and Long Term Changes and A Magic Web: The Tropical Forest of Barro Colorado Island, both by Egbert Leigh, Jr.; Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America by Forsyth and Miyata; Visions of a Rainforest: A Year in Australia’s Tropical Rainforest by Breeden and Cooper; Exhibit Labels, An Interpretive Approach by Beverly Serrell; Roget’s Thesaurus, Fifth Edition and Wired Magazine for examples of pithy captions. I have learned much but perhaps my favorite golden nugget comes from A Magic Web:

Jacalyn Giacolone, of Montclair State University, set up automatic cameras around the island to photograph animals as they passed by. She learned that a Calvin Klein perfume, Obsession, attracts ocelots. In the few months after perfume was spread near her cameras, at least thirty different ocelots were photographed.

After that, the universe just make a whole lot more sense.

A drawerful of toucans; I felt like Daisy in the Great Gatesby: "
Opening a drawer full of bird skins at the Sam Noble; I felt a little like Daisy in The Great Gatsby: "They're such beautiful toucans, it makes me sad because I've never seen such--such beautiful toucans before"

3 thoughts on “Writing the Motmot

  1. sandihester says:

    Thanks for sharing your field equipment – I love looking at people’s art supplies and seeing what they use!

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