John M. Edson Hall of Birds

Opened March 16, 2017; Ongoing; Old City Hall

This exhibit in Old City Hall provides a glimpse into the local history and culture of the Victorian Era, when taxidermy flourished and mounted animals often decorated interior spaces. For the Museum, this collection of birds is also important to the building’s history. If it hadn’t been for John M. Edson, Old City Hall might not be standing here today. While city officials were considering demolishing it, Edson saw an opportunity to not only save the building, but also to create a public museum within its walls. He dreamed of having a permanent home for his bird specimen collection, and the museum became the perfect showcase.

Now, more than 75 years later, the Whatcom Museum has taken this important collection and reinterpreted it as an educational experience. Designed in collaboration with the North Cascades Audubon Society, the exhibit provides opportunities to learn about bird migration, conservation success stories, birds in peril, and the importance of studying bird specimens today. Alongside the interpretive panels and the birds themselves, the Hall of Birds provides a variety of interactive opportunities, including video clips of birds in our local habitats, audio files of Puget Sound-area bird calls, and hands-on activities for children. We look forward to sharing this important collection with visitors for years to come.

Special Exhibit:

Blown glass pileated woodpecker with red crest, white face, blue beak, black body

Oiva Toikka; Pileated woodpecker. Collection of Museum of Glass.

Birds by Toikka
April 10 – October 10, 2021

In partnership with Museum of Glass, and to compliment Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest, concurrently showing at the Lightcatcher, the Whatcom Museum is featuring a collection of glass birds in the John M. Edson Hall of Birds. Birds by Toikka, made by renowned Finnish artist and designer Oiva Toikka (1931 – 2019) for the Finnish design company, Iittala, are on loan from Museum of Glass Archives and the Paul Kangas Collection, which is a promised gift to Museum of Glass. The glass birds are interspersed among our mounted bird display cases. Toikka began the Birds by Toikka collection in 1973, and is considered to be one of the greatest designers in Finnish glass. Image credit: Oiva Toikka; Pileated Woodpecker; 2011; Blown glass; 10 × 4.5 in. Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington.

The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.