By Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant
Sometimes two organizations come together to better achieve their missions. The Whatcom Museum and the North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS) are an example of this. Through an ongoing partnership, both the Museum and NCAS have produced a variety of events, and most recently an exhibit, that have informed and inspired people throughout Whatcom County to explore the natural world around them.
The partnership began in 2013 when the Museum opened an exhibit in the Syre Education Center that showcased the Museum’s collection of taxidermy birds and Native American artifacts on a limited basis (two to three times a year for 2-6 weeks at a time). Shortly after the exhibit opened, Museum staff invited NCAS to help assist with education programs about the birds. NCAS agreed and representatives from the Society spent time each month volunteering to be present in the exhibit to answer questions and engage in conversations about birds with Museum visitors.
More recently, when the Museum decided to move its founding collection of taxidermied birds in 2016-17 from the Syre Education Center to Old City Hall and create the John M. Edson Hall of Birds, which is open year-round, NCAS played a key role in the exhibit development.
“When planning began for moving the birds to Old City Hall, knowledgeable NCAS birders joined in and we discussed key birds to move (ultimately they were pretty much all moved!), and important themes for the exhibit. These became foundational to the new exhibit,” said Chris Brewer, a previous Museum educator involved in getting Audubon active at the Museum, and the current Audubon Board Education Chair.
The Hall of Birds showcases more than 500 mounted birds and provides opportunities for guests to learn about migration, conservation, birds in peril, and the importance of studying bird specimens today. The NCAS is still involved with the Hall of Birds exhibit. Every fourth Sunday of the month from 1:30-3:30pm is “Audubon at the Museum,” where volunteer experts from the Society are available to answer questions that guests might have about the exhibit or birds in general.
The NCAS uses the Rotunda Room of Old City Hall as the venue for its monthly meetings and educational presentations on the fourth Tuesday of every month, 7-9pm. The public programs are open to the public, and highlight a diverse range of topics, from bird habitat to the effects of climate change on migration patterns to highlights on specific bird species.
NCAS has also been a key financial contributor to many of the Museum’s programs. The NCAS helped fund four summer youth bird camps in 2015 and 2016, which provided scholarships for four children to attend the camps as well as purchase materials and provide staff assistance. NCAS also co-sponsored two sold-out presentations by well-known bird photographer Paul Bannick. During the Vanishing Ice exhibition in 2013-14, NCAS helped facilitate family educational events.
NCAS does a lot of work for the community outside of the Museum. The Society continues to support scientific research about local wildlife and the environment. They’ve also provided grants for more than 30 college students who have completed work on 31 different research projects in the fields of natural history and ecology. NCAS also served as Whatcom County Coordinator for a five-year, state-wide study on seabird mortality. Through all of these actions, the Society continues to provide opportunities for the public to engage with the natural world all around them, as well as expand the scientific body of knowledge about the local environment.
“Audubon is not only a birding organization, but an educational and conservation oriented [organization] as well,” said Pam Borso, current president of the North Cascades Audubon Society. “The Museum has provided us the opportunity to further our presence in the community.”
The Whatcom Museum thanks the North Cascades Audubon Society for their contribution to the community, and to our visitors.