Posted by: henrymcghie | August 19, 2012

‘Animals are good to think’


Hello, I go to Oslo today for a workshop on how particular ideas about animals develop over time. There is more information about the project. Claude Lévi-Strauss, a famous French anthropologist, once said that particular species of animals become important as symbols and totems to people because ‘animals are good to think’. A group of us have been preparing essays for publication later this year. My essay is about a particular species of bird, Ross’s Gull, and how ideas about it have developed, through published writings, museum specimens, and appearances in popular culture. Ross’s Gull was a very mysterious bird in the 19th century, with only a handful of specimens in museums. It was seen during some of the most famous Arctic expeditions: during the search for the Northwest Passage, the Jeanette voyage, Vega voyage and others. Its regular breeding grounds were discovered in 1905 in remote Northeast Siberia. The illustration above shows two young Ross’s Gulls which were found by the famous Norwegian zoologist and explorer Fridtjof Nansen, when he was trying to reach the North Pole in 1893-96. Nansen allowed his ship, the Fram, to be frozen into the ice as he thought it may be carried over the North Pole by ocean currents. The illustration above shows the rare gulls, with Nansen and his ship in the background. 

Our project is presented in an exhibition at the University of Oslo Library, curated by artists Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson. I haven’t seen the exhibition yet and I’m very excited to see how Bryndis and Mark have put the exhibition together.



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