The Lost Language of Nature: the stories science doesn't tell

A new exhibition opening at Saffron Walden Museum next month will take visitors on a journey to discover some of the lost language of nature through the museum's historic taxidermy bird collection.

The Lost Language of Nature: The Stories Science Doesn't Tell exhibition opens on Saturday 16 July.

The show features newly conserved taxidermy specimens, some of which have not been out of storage for over 20 years. Visitors can see the diverse habitats in which these birds live across the world and discover some of the language and folklore which they have inspired, which historically has not featured in museum records and displays.

The exhibition is part of the wider Lost Language of Nature Project which aims to re-engage the public with the lost words and stories of wildlife through research, storytelling, and the physical conservation work. Ongoing outreach work aims to correct the lack of input and knowledge from cultures that represent the source communities of items collected outside the UK, as well as find some of the lost language of specimens from the UK, such as folk names for common birds.

Charlotte Pratt, Learning and Outreach Officer who co-curated the exhibition, said: "I hope visitors will enjoy reconnecting with or being introduced to these bird species and their cultural stories during this exhibition. So much of what museums have recorded and deemed important in the past was about scientific data - we forget how culturally significant animals were in the past, and still are to some communities.

"It has been a real privilege to have the opportunity to conserve these specimens as part of the wider project and I really hope people will enjoy seeing them."

The exhibition showcases birds from around the world, split into four habitat categories - grassland, woodland, wetland, and the sea and seashore. Visitors will also be able to catch glimpses of some of the physical conservation work in action as the exhibition will feature a mini conservation studio.

The public will also be invited to share their own stories through the course of the exhibition through interactives, surveys and a community art project.

James Lumbard, Natural Sciences Officer and co-curator of the exhibition, said: "We're excited to showcase these amazing birds and their cultural stories and to welcome all members of the public to share their stories about these creatures with us - that is what this exhibition is all about.

"In the past, a close connection with the natural world meant that animals played an important part in many cultures. From this, a rich body of stories, myths, legends, and language was born. Unfortunately, this information often isn't recorded alongside scientific information in natural science collections. We really hope this exhibition and the wider project will help us change that."

The exhibition runs until 30 October.

More information about Saffron Walden Museum can be found at: www.saffronwaldenmuseum.org.

27 June 2022