Norwich Castle prepares for new Wonder of Birds exhibition

A Golden Cheeked Barbet exhibit is vacuumed and restored for The Wonder of Birds exhibition at Norwich Castle. Picture: Denise Bradley A Golden Cheeked Barbet exhibit is vacuumed and restored for The Wonder of Birds exhibition at Norwich Castle. Picture: Denise Bradley

Thursday, May 1, 2014
6:30 AM

The plumage is being preened and feathers are being ruffled as staff behind the scenes at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery prepare for their next big exhibition.

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The Romans came, saw and conquered and now the invasion is over with the end of the Roman Empire: Power and People show, it will soon be the turn for birds of the feather to flock together for The Wonder of Birds.

The show opens on May 24 and volunteers and conservationists are working hard behind the scenes to ensure the specimens picked from the castle’s 20,000-strong bird collection are in tip-top condition.

Volunteers Janet Wolstenholme and Mary Partridge, who are both from Wymondham, have been helping to clean the taxidermy using specialist vacuum cleaners, make up brushes and cosmetic sponges, while conservationists undertake some of the more tricky repairs and tasks.

Mrs Wolstenholme, 66, said: “It’s amazing being able to be close up and handle the birds and see the feathers because they are lovely.”

Mrs Partridge, 63, added: “They are fragile so you could quite easily tear them and it’s very delicate work.”

As well as some impressive taxidermy, The Wonder of Birds will also explore the cultural impact of birds upon mankind through artwork, historical objects and even fashion, using the castle’s own large collection as well as items loaned from local and national museums.

Visitors will be greeted by the show’s largest and smallest birds displayed side by side - an imposing young male condor with a wingspan of two and a half metres and a tiny, delicate hummingbird.

Co-curator David Waterhouse, curator of natural history at the castle museum, said the exhibition was a great chance to show some items which have not been on display for more than 50 years.

He said: “It’s great for the specimens as they are being made over and made fit for another 100 years.”

Co-curator Francesca Vanke, keeper of art and curator of decorative art at the castle museum, said the show integrate art work with taxidermy, so the visitor is surreounded by birds wherever they look.

She said: “The unique part about this show is its variety.

“It’s not just a show about taxidermy and it’s not just a show about art.

“It mixes everything together in a coherent way to help you find out more about the different aspects of birds.”

The exhibition comprises six sections, including an introduction to birds, predators and prey, birds and landscape, migrants and ocean travellers, introducing the exotic, and the realms of the spirit.

Thw Wonder of Birds will run at Norwich Castle Museum from May 24 to September 14.

Do you have a story about birds? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772474 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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