1. Birds of Paradise

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How can the presence of millinery prepared birds of paradise skins in a Clothing and Textiles Collection at the University of Alberta affect our understanding of shared histories between humans and animals?

What relationships, practices and geographies brought about their movement from natural habitats in New Guinea, making into millinery ornaments and presence in a clothing and textiles collection in Western Canada?

This section of the exhibition seeks to engage with these questions from the starting point of the things themselves:

Play for audio recording of Greater Birds of Paradise

© BBC

Lesser Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea minor) millinery prepared specimen. University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles Collection (UACTC). Photo: Merle Patchett

Lesser Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea minor) millinery prepared specimen. University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles Collection (UACTC). Photo: Merle Patchett

Lesser Bird of Paradise  (Paradisaea minor) millinery prepared specimen with mating plumes. UACTC. Photo: Merle Patchett

Close-up of cut threads that would have attached the millinery prepared body to the hat.

Greater Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea apoda) Millinery prepared trade-skin dyed black. UACTC. Photo: Andriko Lozowy

Greater Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea apoda) Millinery prepared trade-skin dyed black. UACTC. Photo: Merle Patchett

Dyed black Greater Bird of Paradise on silk plush hat c. 1910, UACTC. Photo: Merle Patchett

Close-up of Nose Bolt. Photo: Merle Patchett

Greater Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea apoda) on silk-plush hat. Label states the hat dates 1935 and was bought in auction for $50. UACTC. Photo: Merle Patchett


For anyone handling birds of paradise skins the rare beauty and sumptuous quality of their plumage cannot go unnoticed. Nor is it hard to imagine why birds of paradise have for millennia been ornaments, commodities and gifts. Yet as Arun Saldanha adamantly argues:


“When Malay, Polynesian, Portuguese, Dutch and English traders became fascinated with the rare birds, they were also merely dis-covering – making appear – objective effects of sexual selection accumulated over a few tens of thousands of years. No heroic entitlement can be conferred to anyone in this story: evolutionary creativity is absolutely without subject.”[1]

Greater Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea apoda).

Video: Curtesy The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Location: Indonesia, Maluku

Camerman: Timothy G Laman, September 16 2010 



POSSESSING PARADISE (and the making of the apoda myth)


“a will to possession [is often] ‘more ominous’, as Benjamin puts it, ‘than any oblivion’’ (Jessica Dubow 2007: 831)

Collection of Foreign Birds, After Leroy de Barde, 1810

Europeans first became aware of birds of paradise in the sixteenth century, after merchants returned from Indonesia with prepared specimens known as ‘trade skins’. As far as it is possible to tell, the very first skins of birds-of-paradise were brought to Europe in 1522 by the surviving crew members of the only ship to complete Magellan’s circumnavigation voyage of the globe. According to the diary of Antonio Pigafetta [2](the only journal kept during the journey), the skins were a gift from the sultan of Bacan island (one of the Moluccas) for the emperor Charles V.

This information indicates the centuries of extensive trade in Bird of Paradise plumes with Moluccan Islamic sultanates before European intervention in the 16th century. Yet as is often a common consequence of European colonialism, these types of  ‘prior connections and histories are [largely] forgotten… limiting what we remember about the international trade in birds of paradise feathers’.[3]


What we do know is that the five skins of the lesser bird of paradise that returned with the Magellan crew members in 1522 instigated Euro-American fascination with birds of paradise as objects of scientific study and aesthetic desire until the present day.

With the introduction of the five trade skins from the Magellan voyage to Europe, birds of paradise became a focus of scientific curiosity and study. The extraordinary beauty and rich colour of the bird’s plumes meant that trade skins were highly sought after by European cabinet collectors, who attained them through Europe’s growing plume trade with Indonesia and New Guinea. According to Pierre Belon’s Natural History of Birds, by the end of the 1540’s mounted birds of paradise were “a common sight in the cabinets of Europe and Turkey”.[4]

Collectors were particularly captivated by their unusual anatomy, for the legs had been removed during their preparation as trade skins (indigenous traders removed the superfluous legs when preparing the skins for trading as they and European travelers only expressed an interest in the plumage). This gave rise to European speculation that the birds did not have feet and instead spent their lives perpetually in flight, living off dew and never touching the earth till death. Living their lives suspended between heaven and earth earned them their name of birds of paradise and correspondingly wondrous visual representation by ornithologists of the day.


Aldrovandi, Ornithologiae, 1599

Aldrovandi, Ornithologiae, 1599

Aldrovandi, Ornithologiae, 1599


The mysteries of their lifestyle were suggested in a set of illustrations produced by Ulisse Aldrovandi for his encyclopedia Ornithologiae published in 1599. Considered one of the most respected naturalists of the period, Aldrovandi’s representations and descriptions substantiated the idea that the birds only lived on sky dew and sun rays and never landed even when breeding, the female apparently laying her eggs in a special cavity on the males back.

Although some complete skins, including the feet and wings, arrived in Europe from the early 1600s, refuting Aldrovandi and his peers ideas, in 1758 Linnaeus perpetuated the myth by naming the Greater bird-of-paradise (the largest of the genus) Paradisaea apoda, or “legless bird-of-paradise”.

Even with complete skins, scholars still found it difficult to interpret the function of the males’ courtship plumes and the nature of the birds’ displays from only a handful of fully preserved hollow skins however. Europeans continued to know very little about the behavior and biology of birds of paradise until 19th century voyages of exploration made it possible for naturalists to carry out first-hand observations of the birds in the wild and to collect and prepare specimens using scientific preparation techniques.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Francios Levaillant was among this new breed of scientists who began to travel the world to explore the areas indigenous to the subjects they studied. An accomplished naturalist-cum-hunter, Levaillant ‘collected’ many bird specimens during his travels. He rarely sketched the birds in their natural environment, but rather collected the skins to be stuffed and mounted on his return. He then commissioned more talented artists to illustrate the specimens for printing.

Levaillant commissioned Jacques Barraband, a well-known French artist, to make illustrations for his famous Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis (1801-1805). Barraband, considered the foremost ornithological artist in nineteenth-century France, was admired for his ability to bring his subjects (often simply preserved hollow skins) to life through conveying the texture of the feathers and the vivid coloration of the birds.


Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis 1854

Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis 1854


However, while Levaillant had travelled and collected extensively in Southern Africa he had never travelled to New Guinea, and instead had acquired birds of paradise trade-skins through his own cultivated trade networks. European naturalists would not see a single alive bird of paradise specimen till 1825, making Barraband’s illustrations for Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis all the more impressive.

In 1854, Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) ventured into the Malay Archipelago of South-East Asia in search of natural history specimens including the coveted birds of paradise. He emerged eight years later with 125,660 specimens (mostly birds and insects) including several live birds of paradise with intact feet:


“The emotions excited in the minds of a naturalist, who has long desired to see the actual thing which he has hitherto known only by description, drawing or badly-preserved external covering, especially when that thing is of surpassing rarity and beauty, require the poetic faculty fully to express them.”


Wallace examines the history and mythology associated with early European encounters with the Birds of Paradise in his autobiographical account of his colleting trip The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-utang and the Bird of Paradise (1869):


“When the earliest European voyagers reached the Moluccas in search of cloves and nutmegs, which were then rare and precious spices, they were presented with the dried shins of birds so strange and beautiful as to excite the admiration even of those wealth-seeking rovers. The Malay traders gave them the name of “Manuk dewata,” or God’s birds; and the Portuguese, finding that they had no feet or wings, and not being able to learn anything authentic about then, called them “Passaros de Col,” or Birds of the Sun; while the learned Dutchmen, who wrote in Latin, called them “Avis paradiseus,” or Paradise Bird. John van Linschoten gives these names in 1598, and tells us that no one has seen these birds alive, for they live in the air, always turning towards the sun, and never lighting on the earth till they die; for they have neither feet nor wings, as, he adds, may be seen by the birds carried to India, and sometimes to Holland, but being very costly they were then rarely seen in Europe.”



Wallace, The Malay Archipelago, 1869


In The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-utang and the Bird of Paradise Wallace also provides details of local knowledge of Bird of Paradise life histories and the various hunting and preservation techniques used:


“…the males assemble early in the morning to exhibit themselves in the singular manner already described…This habit enables the natives to obtain specimens with comparative ease. As soon as they find that the birds have fled upon a tree on which to assemble, they build a little shelter of palm leaves in a convenient place among the branches, and the hunter ensconces himself in it before daylight, armed with his bow and a number of arrows terminating in a round knob. A boy waits at the foot of the tree, and when the birds come at sunrise, and a sufficient number have assembled, and have begun to dance, the hunter shoots with his blunt arrow so strongly as to stun the bird, which drops down, and is secured and killed by the boy without its plumage being injured by a drop of blood. The rest take no notice, and fall one after another till some of them take the alarm.

The indigenous mode of preserving them is to cut off the wings and feet, and then skin the body up to the beak, taking out the skull. A stout stick is then run up through the specimen coming out at the mouth.”



Papuan feathered headdress Photo: Victoria Museum


Wallace’s account of indigenous preservation techniques reveals what gave rise to the apoda myth among European collectors and underlines how reliant naturalist explorers, like Wallace, were on the local knowledge and hunting practices of indigenous hunters.

Thanks to expertise and assistance of indigenous hunters Wallace got unparalleled access to the birds, enabling him to observe their behaviour first hand and to publish the first scientific description of the mating practices of the Greater Bird of Paradise in 1857 in The Annals and Magazine of Natural History:

“They are in a state of excitement and incessant activity, and the males assemble together to exercise, dress and display their magnificent plumage. For this purpose they prefer certain lofty, large-leafed forest-trees (which at this time have no fruit), and on these, early in the morning , from ten to twenty full-plumages birds assemble, as the natives express it, “to play and dance”. They open their wings, stretch out their necks, shake their bodies, and keep the long golden plumes open and vibrating  – constantly changing their positions, flying across and across each other from branch to branch, and appearing proud of their activity and beauty. The long, downy, golden feathers  are, however, displayed in a manner which has, I believe, been hitherto quite unknown, but in which alone the bird can be seen to full advantage, and claim our admiration as the most beautiful winged forms which adorn the earth.”



Greater Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea apoda) mating display.

Video: Curtesy The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Location: Indonesia, Maluku

Camerman: Timothy G Laman, September 16 2010  


Wallace’s descriptions of the bird of paradise mating behaviour in The Annals and Magazine of Natural History helped to corroborate Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. According to Darwin, evolution occurs faster and more dramatically in some places and species, as male sexual characteristics and female preference for them are selected for in tandem, a process biologists call ‘runaway sexual selection’.[5] Arun Saldanha  explains that bird of paradise runaway sexual selection can be explained by the birds’ biogeography:


MAP: National Geographic


“[w]ith favourable ecological conditions in New Guinea – isolated tropical highlands, plentiful vegetation, few mammal competitors and virtually no predators – the Paradisaea could further evolve their dazzling features (a few species migrated to the Australian coast and the Moluccas). Apart from extreme sexual dimorphism their ornithological significance includes elaborate mating ritual and song, extremely long lives, nest decoration, manipulation of food, an unusual diversity in sexual relationships, and probably the highest interspecies hybridization amongst all birds’.[6]

Unfortunately for the birds, along with naturalist explorer-hunters, these marvels of evolution caught the eye of another unintended suitor.


THE “PLUME BOOM”and CAPTURING PARADISE


During the first two decades of the 20th century, hats decorated with bird feathers, wings and entire bodies, were fashionable among women living in the cosmopolitan centers of Europe and the Americas. The brilliant plumes of the birds of paradise were most desirable due to the beauty and luscious texture of their mating plumes, but also because of their comparative rarity and resulting expense in Euro-American plume markets. From 1905-1920, 30,000-80,000 bird of paradise skins were exported annually to the feather auctions of London, Paris and New York. In the 1913 book Our Vanishing Wildlife W. T. Hornaday expressed the devastating effect demand for bird of paradise plumes was having on living populations: 


Bird-lovers must now bid farewell forever to all the birds of paradise. Nothing but the legal closing of the world’s markets against their plumes and skins can save any of them. They never were numerous; nor does any species range over a wide area. They are strictly insular, and the island homes of some of them are very small. Take the great bird of paradise (Paradisea apoda) as an illustration. On Oct. 2, 1912, at Indianapolis, Indiana, a city near the center of the United States, in three show-windows within 100 feet of the headquarters of the Fourth National Conservation Congress, I counted 11 stuffed heads and 11 complete sets of plumes of this bird, displayed for sale. The prices ranged from $30 to $47.50 each! And while I looked, a large lady approached, pointed her finger at the remains of a greater bird of paradise, and with grim determination, said to her shopping companion:

“There! I want one o’ them, an’ I’m agoin’ to have it, too!


The increased demand for bird of paradise plumes in these fashion capitals inspired Malay, Chinese and Australian hunters to seek their fortunes hunting birds of paradise in New Guinea’s rain forests – one of several important hunting grounds during the international “plume boom”. The Greater Bird of Paradise hunting season ran from April until September, during the bird’s mating season when the males were in full plumage and vulnerable to attack as they became immersed in their performance.

Anthropologist Stuart Kirsch explains that the success of the foreign hunters was dependant on the knowledge of local hunters like the Yonggom who knew the mating habits of the species and could lead them to the birds’ display trees located on their land. The Yonggom,  were extremely knowledgable about the birds as they hunted the Greater Birds of Paradise for use as adornment on ceremonial headdresses the men wore during a ritual dance, during which the male dancers mimic the movement of the birds when they are displaying. Kirsch notes that the Yonggom called the plume hunters ono dapit, from ono, their name for the greater bird of paradise, and dapit, which referred to the light color of the hunter’s skins.[7]

The skins were then sent to Europe through the plume trade routes that had been well established between New Guinea and Europe through the trade of bird of paradise skins for science.


PERFORMING PARADISE


Bird of Paradise Hat, Harper’s Bazaar


The What Women Are Wearing section of the New York Times on September 25th, 1904 indicates how women in the fashion capitals were wearing birds of paradise plumes:


“Millinery is ever a matter of interest to women, and a new chapeau is almost invariably regarded with greater interest than even a new frock, for the latter is more of a necessity. …

Mrs. John Jacob Astor is wearing a chic purple crinoline hat with a small, flat, round crown and a wide brim that curves over a bit at the edges and then rises at the right front and describes a wide, flaring semi-circle to a point back of the left ear. Its sole trimming is a black bird of paradise plume that starts from the left of the crown and sweeps upward, outward, and backward against both brim and crown.

Mrs. Clarence Mackay wears hats to match her frocks, the hats being made to go with each costume. The other evening she had on at dinner at Sherry’s a charmingly light but large round hat of pearly grey white tulle shirred on invisible wires and quite transparent as to the wide brim. From the front and left of the hat floated a plume of white bird of paradise feathers. The gown this frail but beautiful creation topped was pale gray covered partially with darker gray paillettes in chenille effect.”


From these descriptions it appears important that the plumes match both the style and colour palette of the ladies outfits, which goes some way to explain why so many birds of paradise millinery skins  (including two examples in the UACTC) were dyed black during the period. A related reason may have something to do with the fact that convention required women wear only black during periods of mourning, which often lasted for extended periods of time in elite social circles: the main customer base for bird of paradise plumes. Such an affluent market explains why plummasiers would go to the bother of dyeing birds of paradise plumes black. As the 1922 edition of Millinery explains dyeing plumes black was a labour intensive process:


“The secrets of the black dyeing of feathers are kept by good dyers; but the process with logwood dye, which is the best, takes about six days. The methods of dyeing, except for the black feathers, are quite simple. The feathers are dyed in small quantities. Acid dye stuffs, either formic or oxalic acid, are best in color and fastness. If the feathers are not bleached before dyeing, they are washed thoroughly in castile soap and water and rinsed. They are then soaked in hot water half an hour to get the stems and quills soft enough to take the dye well.

Feathers are often painted with oil paint and gasoline, but the color rubs off and there is danger of plastering the tiny barbules together if the paint is too thick. Barred or stenciled effects may be obtained by painting.

Shaded effects are made by first dyeing the whole feather in a weak bath, and then strengthening the color gradually as the feather is withdrawn bit by bit. Only the end is put into the last and darkest bath of dye.”


Yet it was not just the fashion elite featured in the New York Times that were sporting birds of paradise plumes, as the presence of bids of paradise millinery skins in the University of Alberta’s Clothing and Textiles Collection makes clear.  Even women in the comparably isolated geographical local of Edmonton, Alberta were able to keep up with New York fashions thanks to clothing and apparel catalogues like the one run by Toronto’s high-end department store of the time: Eatons. Through the Eaton’s catalogue women in rural and the most inaccessible locales were able to get their hands on exotic accessories like birds of paradise plumes from New Guinea and millinery prepared parrots from Australia and South America.


Eaton’s Catalogue Page 36-1,1911

Eaton’s Catalogue page from 1913. Bird of Paradise Aigrette priced at $12 a small fortune for the time.


However the accessibility of birds of paradise plumes also underlines the massive impact the plumage trade was having of living populations of birds of paradise. During the ‘plume boom’, many species of bird of paradise, and particularly the most sought after Greater Bird of Paradise, were almost wiped out to extinction because of the fashion of using the bird’s feathers to decorate hats. With up to 80,000 skins being exported each year at the height of the ‘plume boom’ its not hard to understand why.

The practice of killing birds of paradise for the millinery trade was finally addressed in the 1920s when all birds of paradise species were protected from export out of New Guinea. Yet, as absurd as it may sound, it was really a fashionable new hairstyle that ultimately saved the birds. In 1913, the bob and other short hairstyles were introduced—cuts which would not support large extravagant hats. Plain slouch hats and ‘cloches’ became very popular, and it was for this reason that most plume-hunters were forced to abandon their trade.


Phillip Treacys Bird of Prey hat from his 2008 collection


Today birds of paradise still have not lost their appeal in both high-fashion, as Phillip Treacy’s millinery creations attest, and in science. Ornithologists continue to be fascinated by them and are still trying to understand how the extraordinary phenotypic diversity of the birds of paradise has come to be over the course of their evolutionary history. Depending on how you count them, bird of paradise expert Dr Edwin Scholes reckons there are between 38-88 species and 14-18 genera of birds of paradise today.


This figure illustrates how ecology has played an important role in BOP evolution, showing how different genera are partitioned within and among elevational zones. (From Frith and Beehler The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae 1998)


However, while it is now illegal to hunt or export the birds, their numbers continue to dwindle as their habitat is slowly being destroyed through New Guineas’ contemporary exports in gold, copper, timber and coffee. Which is why it is important to delve beneath the sumptuous skins of any birds of paradise skins existing in the realms of human culture, as we find that appreciation of their beauty is not merely a Euro-American tradition. First the birds themselves appreciate their beauty, or they wouldn’t have evolved it at all. Second, Papuans and non-European traders have for millennia indulged in the birds’ beauty and myth. Perversely it was the enormous distance between New Guinea and Europe and the consequent rarity and cost of the birds in European markets that increased their appeal to scientific collectors and ladies of fashion in Europe and North America.  Wallace had it right when he wrote of the birds that:


“It seems sad that on the one hand such exquisite creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild inhospitable regions, doomed for ages yet to come to hopeless barbarism; while on the other hand, should civilized man ever reach these distant lands, and bring moral, intellectual, and physical light into the recesses of these virgin forests, we may be sure that he will so disturbed the nicely-balanced relations of organic and inorganic nature as to cause the disappearance, and finally the extinction, of these very beings whose wonderful structure and beauty he alone is fitted to appreciate and enjoy.

This consideration must surely tell us that all living things were not made for man. Many of them have no relation to him. The cycle of their existence has gone on independently of his, and is disturbed or broken by every advance in man’s intellectual development; and their happiness and enjoyment, their loves and hates, their struggles for existence, their vigorous life and early death, would seem to be immediately related to their own well-being and perpetuation alone, limited only by the equal well-being and perpetuation of the numberless other organisms with which each is more or less intimately connected.” (From Wallace’s 1869 book The Malay Archipelago).


Greater Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea apoda).

Video: Curtesy The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Location: Indonesia, Maluku

Camerman: Timothy G Laman, September 21 2010  


Click here for more archived video (by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macaulay Library) depicting the Greater Birds of Paradise as they should be in natural habitats: Video #65370


Text by Dr Merle Patchett



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Birds of Paradise by Dr Merle Patchett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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[1] Arun Saldanha 2010 ‘Two Birds of Paradise in North Holland, 1592: The Gift in the Exotic’, Parallax, 2010, vol. 16, no. 1, 68–79.

[2] A. Pigafetta, “Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo” (Report on the First Voyage Around the World). Paris, 1524-1534.

[3] Stuart Kirsch (2008) ‘History and the Birds of Paradise: Surprising Connections from New Guinea’,Expedition,  48:1, 15-21.

[4] P. Belon, L’Histoire de la nature des oyseaux. Paris, 1555.

[5] Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (first edition, London: John Murray: 1871), chapter 13-16.

[6] Arun Saldanha 2010 ‘Two Birds of Paradise in North Holland, 1592: The Gift in the Exotic’, Parallax, 2010, vol. 16, no. 1, 68–79.

[7] Stuart Kirsch (2008) ‘History and the Birds of Paradise: Surprising Connections from New Guinea’, Expedition,  48:1, 15-21.

Comments
10 Responses to “1. Birds of Paradise”
  1. glenda larke says:

    Hi there Merle,

    Just wanted to say what a great site you have developed here. (Sorry that sounds like spam…!) My niece, Perdy Phillips, pointed me this way because I am writing a novel that is going to be talking a lot about birds of paradise and the millinery trade. And this is a pleasure to read as well as being so informative.

    Oh, I wish I was in a position to go to the exhibition! I hope it is a huge success.

    I’d love to think the trade in birds of paradise was over, but every now and then someone in my part of the world (Malaysia) is arrested for having cenderwasi feathers in their possession. So sad…

    Glenda

    • Merle says:

      HI Glenda,

      thanks so much for taking the time to visit and engage with the site.

      Please let me know how your novel develops as I would love to read it and link to it on the site.

      I am in touch with Perdy and would love for there to an Australian version of Fashioning Feathers…

      The exhibition has been conceived and designed so it can travel so if you can think of any galleries or museums in Malaysia that would be interested in hosting it please let me know.

      Best wishes for the book,

      Merle

  2. Bonnie Martin says:

    I love your site and information was the best I’ve seen. I came here thru a search for millinery items as I have a tub full. I have beautiful wings and a bird of paradise….I believe. It looks like the greater bird of paradise. i was trying to find out if they could be sold because of their rarity. Thank you again. Bonnie

    • Merle says:

      Hi Bonnie,

      if you send me a photograph I could confrim if it is a bird of paradise and possibly what variety. I know it certainly could be sold as unfortunately there is still a black market in bird of paradise skins. Yours being a period peice is in a different category and perhaps a plummasier like Lemarie (who use only period feathers collected at the time of the plume boom) would be interested in purchasing it. The University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles collection may also be interested in purchasing it and I could ask them for you.

      Best regards, Merle

  3. Arrie says:

    I was just given an all-black bird of paradise (head and plume) that belonged to my great-grandmother, and which was used on a hat. Thank you for all of the information on the bird and the millinery history. I’m surprised to learn that they were often dyed black–seems a shame! My bird is beautiful, but I would have loved to see its original colors! Thanks again for this site.

  4. David Dansky says:

    Hi,
    Maybe you can help me. My mother (age 92) has a Greater Bird of Paradise pair (attached) of feathers in wonderful shape. She got them from her mother. They obviously have been in the family for generations. I don’t think they were ever attached or used. We’d like to see if it’s possible to sell them, somehow. The emotional attachment has worn off. I see that there are restrictions on even owning them. Do we have any options? I have a photo I can send you.
    Thanks.

    • Merle says:

      Dear David,

      have you considered donating the birds to a fashion and textiles or natural history museum?

      Which country do you live in? The U.S. does not allow sale, barter, or possession without a federal permit. The birds can be gifted for research and educational purposes, however, which is why I would suggest you find a museum that might be interested in them.

      I have seen antique birds-of-paradise parts and plumes for sale on ebay and etsy thought I’m not sure how the sellers were dealing with the issue of a federal permit. They may have overcome it due to the age of the plumes in question.

      If you want to contact me further about his my email is merle.patchett@gmail.com

      Thanks,

      Merle

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  1. […] entitle a series of extended curatorial essays that explore the exhibition themes in greater depth: Birds of Paradise – this space explores the relationships, practices and geographies behind the making and […]

  2. […] documents the making of the exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum. You can find more information here. The blog has a whole page devoted to the Birds of Paradise, and I recommend reading it from top to […]

  3. […] Birds of Paradise – this space explores the relationships, practices and geographies behind the making and presence of millinery bird of paradise skins in a clothing and textiles collection in Western Canada. It includes audio and video recordings of birds of paradise in their natural habitats courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. […]



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