As a university museum, we get a fair amount of artists in the Tetrapod Collection who will come to borrow specimens for uses beyond science. Sometimes an artist will borrow specimens and create a beautiful masterpiece that has a message behind it.
Ohio State associate art professor, Amy Youngs, is undertaking a massive project that, once completed, is sure to turn heads and get people talking. Using the vast resource of dead birds from our collection, she has displayed many of our bird skins on a specially designed frame to spell out the word “STRIKE” in an elaborate, yet macabre, fashion. She then plans to hang the unique piece of art in the second floor windows of Hopkins Hall, as a reminder of the dangers windows can pose to birds.
This particular art project is the result of a much larger undertaking called the Biopresence Project. This project involves collaboration of many departments at OSU such as art, engineering, and science. The point of the project is to foster a greater appreciation for the biodiversity of our local ecology and start dialogue on how we can make room for animals in our modern world. People all over the campus are encouraged to document when they see any kind of animal and report it through social media (Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram) using the hastag #AnimalOSU. According to Professor Youngs, the Biopresence Project inspired her to create the window strike piece. “I’ve been working on the Biopresence Project with Dr. Nelson for about a year,” said Professor Youngs. “This idea came out of some of the things I’ve learned working with her [Dr. Nelson] and working with some of the other people in the project.” To learn more about the Biopresence Project, you can visit their website.
While many of the animals documented for the Biopresence project are reported as alive, others are found dead due to the window collisions. Windows can pose a very large hazard to birds. According to the Bird Conservation Network’s website, it is estimated that windows kill at least 100,000,000 birds each year. Ornithologists have followed this trend for decades and have concluded that birds simply can’t recognize glass as a barrier. In the Tetrapod Collection, we understand the effects of window kills very well. “A portion of our specimen donations are the result of window kills,” says Tetrapod Collection Manager Stephanie Malinich.
However, this danger to birds has not gone unnoticed and has prompted local movements nationwide. Ohio Lights Out is a project that seeks to reduce the amount of light produced by buildings during migratory seasons. Ohio Lights Out has specific goals and methods for each major city in Ohio that would seek to make migratory routes safer for birds by having certain buildings enroll in the program. Enrolled buildings take a pledge that, during the migration season, they will reduce the number of lights left on at night.
While we loan out specimens for a variety of projects this is one way to educate the public about the dangers that wildlife face everyday. When asked about what the overall theme of her work is, Amy Youngs stated, “I think it’s an art work that tries to be engaged in what’s around me and this is something I’m noticing and thinking about. Art can be used as a way to help us recognize things that can go unnoticed. We don’t often take notice of a single bird being killed by a window, but en mass it sort of becomes hard to ignore.”
Amy Youngs’ project will be on display at the BioPresence Art exhibition, which takes place in the Hopkins Hall gallery on December 9th 2015 from 5pm to 8pm. Her project will be facing south in the second story windows.