Egg & Nest: Photographs by Rosamond Purcell

January 12, 2009

Opens on February 12th, 2009, at Harvard Museum of Natural History

The Harvard Museum of Natural History opens a new exhibition Egg & Nest: Photographs by Rosamond Purcell on February 12th, 2009. World-renowned photographer Rosamond Purcell's photographs of exquisitely elegant eggs and remarkable nests present an artist's view of natural history.

Purcell has worked in museum collections in the United States, Europe and Russia in search of the visual wonder that comes from contemplating venerable natural history specimens. With the help of the curatorial staff at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in California, she explored their vast ornithological holdings in order to capture the skills of the nest-builders and the surprisingly diverse beauty of their eggs. The resulting photographs appear in her acclaimed recent book, Egg & Nest, published by Harvard University Press in 2008.

In her artist statement in the exhibition Purcell states, "Visually nothing could be more different than an egg and a nest. The first is always perfect, no matter what the outer variations in shape; an egg is endless, irreducible. A nest, on the other hand is an artifact assembled by beak and claw, often messy, but always adapted to the needs of the next generation of birds."

With the eye of an artist, Purcell captures the round perfection of owl’s eggs and the brilliant gloss and range of color of Tinamou eggs. In contrast, nest images demonstrate the ingenuity of the birds that build them. Visitors can admire the nest of the Great-tailed Grackle, in which ribbons, twigs, lace and audio tape serve as bedding for future chicks. Other memorable images are the nest of Anna’s Hummingbird conveniently perched on the wire of a glass insulator, and the nest of Bell’s Vireo interwoven in which is a historic newspaper clipping from the early twentieth century.

Rosamond Purcell, Cambridge-raised and Somerville-based, is the author of a number of books, including Owl’s Head and Bookworm. She collaborated with the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould on three books, including Crossing Over Where Art and Science Meet.

About the Harvard Museum of Natural History

With a mission to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the human place in it, the Harvard Museum of Natural History draws on the University’s collections and research to present a historic and interdisciplinary exploration of science and nature. More than 165,000 visitors annually make it the University’s most-visited museum.

Open daily, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is located at 26 Oxford Street, a short walk from the Harvard Square Red Line T station. The Museum is handicapped accessible. For more information, please see plan your visit, or call 617.495.3045.

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