Bird skeletons alight in the library

“…there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone”

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This morning a small procession of bird skeletons made its way from the science building to the library: one last flight for the calcified remnants of wild lives that ended on windshields and picture windows in and around Sewanee. These skeletons are the result of the work of students in my Ornithology class, each of whom received a bird carcass at the beginning of the semester. The students have now cleaned and articulated the skeletons. Their work is on display within the belly of David Henderson’s Brief History of Aviation sculpture.

These unclothed cousins of ours reveal the relationship between unity and diversity in biology. The tension between these poles is what animates life: one theme, many variations.

Many thanks to Kevin Reynolds and the staff of duPont library for their fabulous help with this project and to David Henderson for letting my students use the remarkable space that he has created.

6 thoughts on “Bird skeletons alight in the library

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      For cleaning we skin the bird then deflesh with scalpels then use dermestid beetles to finish (although burial in some soil also works as does gentle/brief boiling). For articulation, this book is good, if you can find a copy. See also: for tons of info about bird specimen curation and prep.

  1. Marie E. Wilson

    Wow! Now I want to make a trip up to Sewanee just to see this!! How long will it be on display?

  2. Dale Swant

    So happy that these specimens weren’t a total loss. We considered breaking no telling how many rules to bring you a brown pelican that was hit on the St George Island, FL bridge but couldn’t overcome logistics problems. It was removed by someone/something in less than six hours so we can hope it went for some greater good. The weather looks good here for a bit of a migratory fallout this weekend, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Hi Dale,

      Thank you for your help with the project! I should have emailed you to give you a heads-up on this post.

      A pelican would be spectacular but I do not have a salvage permit for FL… Hopefully the pelican became another creature’s lunch?

      Good luck with the birding!


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