TRAVERSE CITY – “Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution,” a traveling exhibition from the National Geographic Society, will make its national debut this summer at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, Mich.
In 2004, National Geographic photographer Tim Laman and Cornell University Lab of Ornithology scientist Edwin Scholes began a series of 15 targeted expeditions to document these bizarre birds. Eight years and 37 distinct geographic locations later, they completed the first comprehensive study of all 39 known species of birds-of-paradise.
The fascinating stories of ground breaking research and adventure paired with amazing footage and photography are the foundation of this highly interactive exhibition. “Birds of Paradise” is a story of daring expeditions, world culture, extreme evolution and conservation, as only National Geographic can present — with stunning imagery, compelling video, soundscapes, artifacts, and engaging educational activities for all ages.
The interactive exhibit — equal parts natural history, photography and science – provides an in-depth look through photographs, videos and sound recordings into the lives of all 39 species of these exotic New Guinea birds. From June 16 to Sept. 22, visitors will be able to follow the groundbreaking research of photographer Tim Laman and Cornell ornithologist Edwin Scholes into their fascinating behaviors.
“We were pleased to be invited by National Geographic, to be the opening venue for the national tour of this informative and fun exhibition,” says Gene Jenneman, the museum’s executive director. “We are excited to partner with National Geographic to bring this truly special exhibition to the Grand Traverse area and the State of Michigan.”
Known for their spectacular plumage – especially the long and elaborate feathers on the tails, beaks, wings or heads of the males – birds-of-paradise live exclusively on New Guinea and a few surrounding islands, usually making their home in dense rainforest where they feed on fruits and insects. Scientists have long been interested in their strange mating rituals and dances.
As they enter the exhibit, visitors will be greeted with natural soundscapes, traditional wood carvings and a montage of the various bird-of-paradise species. They’ll experience the bizarre courtship dances that male birds perform to attract the females — through a unique “female’s eye view” video and with the help of interactive games like “Dance, Dance Evolution” that allow humans to learn the birds’ signature moves by dancing along with them.
Photos, videos, bird specimens and a kinetic sculpture of a riflebird (one bird-of-paradise species) also show the transformations that birds-of-paradise undergo to attract their mates and the various moves that make up their mating rituals. Visitors can also manipulate artificial tree branches to trigger video footage of different birds displayed on their perches, with commentary from Scholes.
Other facets of the exhibition highlight the importance of birds-of-paradise to New Guinea. Maps and diagrams of the birds’ ranges across the country explain how the country’s environment allowed the birds to adapt and evolve over time. Legends and folklore about the birds are shared from past generations of New Guinea natives..
Since its opening in 1991, the Dennos has become northern Michigan’s most significant cultural center. In addition to a collection that includes over 1,100 catalogued works of artworks from the Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic, it has hosted several major traveling exhibits, from works by studio glass artist Dale Chihuly to artifacts of ancient Egypt and gold from pre-Columbian Panama.
Located on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College, it is also the home of Milliken Auditorium, whose annual series of jazz, blues and world music is a hugely popular part of the state’s cultural mosaic. Admission to the Museum Center during the run of this special exhibition will be $10 for adults and $5 for children.
The Dennos Museum Center is open daily 10 AM to 5 PM, Thursday’s until 8 PM and Sundays 1-5 PM. For more information on the Museum and its programs, go to www.dennosmuseum.org or call 231-995-1055.
For complete Traverse City travel information go to www.traversecity.com.
–Sponsored content from the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau.