2023 proved to be a big year for long term improvements to the museum. This summer with the help of Neve Monroe-Anderson and Red Addis we were able to put a new coat of paint to the front hall and incorporate a number of antique glass display cases courteousy Michael Olynik.
2023 was also an exceptional year for new acquisitions. First up, we purchased a unique collection of over 50 78RPM records from the Canary Records label operated by independent musicology Ian Nagoski. The records chronicle several important and forgotten moments in the history of media, as well as human-bird relations. Spanning the early era of commercial recorded sound (1910’s to 1940’s) these records include: historically significant recordings of captive and trained song birds; records made for the purpose of training songbirds to perform a more human-centric repertoire; and human whistlers who, inspired by song birds, whistle for the purpose of accurate imitation as well as for virtuosic expressive performance. These recordings will play a role in several new exhibits, as well as a future book to be published in collaboration with Mr. Nagoski.
Next, in a very unexpected turn of events, we acquired 106 objects from the collection of the now defunct Philadelphia Commercial Museum (1895 - 1994). The museum was the first museum in the world to present a global collection of nature and culture for the purpose of promoting international commerce. The collection originated with exhibits that were produced for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 and the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The commercial exhibits were placed on permanent display and functioned as a kind of catalog of products and raw materials that could be bought and sold in the newly globalized economy. The existence of the museum helps fill in a historical gap in our understanding of when postnatural history was decoupled from natural history.
Lastly, a very special donation to the museum was made this year by Mr. Joe Davis of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Davis is a world renowned artist and experimenter who works in fields including biology, physics, chemistry, robotics, engineering, radio, aeronautics, and so on. Mr. Davis gifted the museum with an exceptional specimen of wooly mammoth hair that had been collected in Siberia as a part of the Wooly Mammoth De-Extinction Project, an ongoing effort to use genetic engineering to bring the extinct wooly mammoth back, or at least something that looks like it. The mammoth hair is currently featured in the audio-guided exhibit area where many of our most prized specimens are housed.