Birdy Thursday at Norwich Castle and Hickling Broad

Norwich Castle

Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

The Wonder of Birds exhibition is currently showing at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve written about a gallery visit here before. One Thursday a couple of weeks ago when I was in Norwich for a few days visiting family I thought I’d see what all the fuss about birds was all about. Well, it was about quite a lot of amazing stuff, actually.

Wonder of birds

When I first heard that The Wonder of Birds was to be next up I wasn’t too keen. Then I read this article in the Guardian and saw the accompanying pictures and changed my mind. Many of the artefacts and pictures came from the Museum’s own collections.

The Wonder of Birds’ explores the cultural impact of birds upon mankind. Eliciting a wide range of emotions from awe to fear, from pleasure to cruelty – birds have intrigued humanity since the earliest of times. The exhibition will span the centuries, informed by local and national collections, to include the arts, natural history, archaeology, fashion and social history. Works by major artists and illustrators, historical and contemporary, will be included and the exhibition will examine local, national and international issues.

Metal bird

Spring Cuckoo by Harriet Mead, 2009

‘The Wonder of Birds’ comprises six sections, each highlighting a different aspect of birds, their meanings and our relationships with them. It begins by introducing the visitor to the breadth of this fascinating subject: what is a bird; what do they mean to us; how have we studied, portrayed, preserved, endangered and used them?

Parrot

Adult Male Paradise Parrot : Frederick Strange, taxidermist, 1851

Section 2, ‘Predators and Prey’ … Section 3, ‘Birds & Landscape’, primarily examines birds in East Anglia, …  Section 4, ‘Migrants and Ocean Travellers’, will examine the seasonal behaviour which may take migrating birds from Norfolk to the Arctic, Africa or South America …Section 5 is titled ‘Introducing the Exotic’. Exotic birds have always been coveted for their brilliant plumage, combined with their sheer rarity value, both as high status pets and for their feathers.

Feather hat

Exotic feathered hat from the 1960s

‘The Realms of the Spirit’, the final section, will illustrate how songbirds and their relatives have symbolised the immortal soul, been seen as heralds of the seasons, messengers from heaven, or magical beings moving between the worlds.” [Museum website]

Cards

Bird related postcards in the Museum Shop

I discovered that birds may not need humans but humans certainly do need birds. They appear in our decorative arts, religion, symbolism, folklore, heraldry, fashion, literature and language.

The 147 million year old Archaeopteryx fossil cast is the earliest known bird. The Natural History Museum cares for the first skeleton specimen ever found and this spectacular fossil helped prove that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs. It was the first example providing support for Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is the most valuable fossil in the NHM’s collection.

archaeopteryx-banner_112755_1

Archaeopteryx fossil [source]

I saw an exquisite hollie point (English needle lace) baby’s Christening cap featuring a dove – a visual reminder of the Holy Spirit …

archive2

Here is a similar example [source]

… and a pincushion made by Sylvia Pankhurst whilst she was incarcerated in Holloway Prison and a copy of the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner’s Bestiary ‘Historiae animalium’ which must have been seen by Mary, Queen of Scots. A group of her embroideries The Oxburgh Hangings feature animals and birds from this book.

Oxburgh hanging

Bird detail from the Oxburgh Hangings [Source – V&A]

Hambling heronMaggi Hambling’s Heron

The section on birds in the landscape featured Maggi Hambling’s Heron in the shallows of the Thames bearing its environmental message. The bird has a mouthful of sewage.

Then in the afternoon I saw birds in their true East Anglian landscape. I drove out to the Norfolk Broads to meet up with an old schoolfriend and we walked around Hickling Broad stopping to look at a variety of birds including a goldfinch, a plump of geese * and many different species from a hide along our path.

* The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump. [source]

Goldfinch

A Goldfinch

Hickling from hide

Hickling Broad from the Hide

geese

The Plump of Geese from the Hide

red sails

Typical Broads View

Ladybird birds

I must have been interested in birds once upon a time – my well-loved book!

12 comments on “Birdy Thursday at Norwich Castle and Hickling Broad

  1. Tuba says:

    An ornithological issue, I see. I can hardly count more than ten 😦

  2. dianabirchall says:

    I’d love to wear the hat! But animal protest groups would probably shoot me (and come to think of it…maybe it is a little creepy). Did you get a picture of Sylvia Pankhurst’s Pincushion? I would love to see that.

    • Oh dear, Diana, I thought I had responded a while ago. Sorry. Sorry also but I’ve been unable to find a picture of SP’s pincushion anywhere. The hat would suit you – but probably not a good idea these days.

  3. Fran says:

    As a life long lover of birds this looks a fascinating exhibition to me. I have several identification books but often return to my Ladybird books when is doubt about a possible sighting. Their illustrations are some of the best I think.

    • I loved my Ladybird books – especially the more general series “What to look for in ….”. Yes I remember you saw the barn owl at Laughton old barn which several visitors to the tower also commented upon.

  4. You were on my doorstep, did you go to the dungeons?

    • On this visit I only went to the exhibition. It’s been a while since I did the battlements and dungeons tour. I grew up and went to school in Norwich and was a great museum and library visitor. Is your doorstep in the city itself Sandy?

  5. nilly says:

    I have that book too, but I lost the dust jacket years ago. I think that even the least “twitchy” among us love to watch birds and my early mornings are cheered by the presence of birdsong.

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