Saturday, August 6, 2011

Roger Tory Peterson Institute

One evening while at Chautauqua a bus whisked us away to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown New York where we had a barbeque (the salmon was yum). Roger Tory Peterson created the "Field Guide to Birds," first published in 1934. While we were at RTPI we had the option of taking an architectural tour of the building and/or a tour of the archives. Mark Baldwin of RTPI showed us one drawer of extinct birds and held up an Ivory Billed Woodpecker and a Passenger pigeon, both extinct. I couldn't help but think how exciting it would be to be let loose in those archives to open the drawers, examine the birds, turn them over in my hands and feel their tiny feet, but that was a no-no.

The photographs of bird artwork were Peterson's first and last illustrations. He died in 1996. The unfinished illustration left an impression on me. It was a stark reminder of how quickly and unexpected death can be. He was so passionate about his work that he was doing it until the day he died.

If you're interested in getting other writer's opinions of Chautauqua or RTPI, I've assembled a list of blog posts from friends I met there:

Marie Powell-Mendenhall - RTPI
Betsy Devany - how I landed in Oz
Kathy Mirkin - 10 reasons to attend
Gail Handler - The charm of Chautauqua

Here's a place to find information about Chautauqua 2011 alumni

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