Audubon prints on display at Spfld. Museums

SPRINGFIELD The Springfield Museums have announced the following programs:

A selection of rare 19th-century Audubon prints will be on display at the Springfield Science Museum through September 25 in the special exhibition The Art of John James Audubon.

The name Audubon has become synonymous with wildlife art and ornithology. A naturalist, taxidermist and artist, Audubon set out to make a complete pictorial record of all the bird species of North America. He preserved images of the appearance and behavior of hundreds of birds, many of which are now endangered or extinct. Unlike the scientific illustrators of his day, Audubon portrayed his subjects in action flying, preening, nesting, courting and feeding.

When it came time to publish his work, Audubon was unable to find a publisher in America. Consequently, The Birds of America, a four-volume collection of 435 oversized, hand-colored prints was published in England between 1827 and 1838.

After Audubon's death, his son contracted with Julius Bien, an American cartographer, to reproduce the work in this country by the less expensive method of chromolithography. In 1860, Bien published a folio of 105 prints but was unable to complete the project because of the outbreak of the Civil War.

Today, only 60 to 70 complete copies of the Bien Folio are thought to exist. The Springfield Science Museum holds 98 prints from the series, a number of which are included in the exhibit The Art of John James Audubon. The exhibition also includes mounted specimens from the museum collection that correspond to some of Audubon's images.

In addition, the museum has on display an example of a mounted Ivory-billed Woodpecker, an extremely rare bird which was presumed to be extinct but was recently rediscovered living in an Arkansas swamp.

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The Springfield Museums at the Quadrangle will present the following Museums la Carte programs in June. Museums la Carte programs are held on Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. in the Museum of Fine Arts.

June 16 - Precious Metal: Studio Jewelers and The Art of Gold; Liz Sommer, curator of art, Springfield Art Museums.

June 23 - The Past, Present and Future of the Book; Guy McLain, director, Connecticut Valley Historical Museum.

June 30 - The History of the Yellow Barn Music School and Festival; Danny Lichtenfeld, executive director, Yellow Barn Music School & Festival, Putney, VT.

Admission to Museums la Carte is $4 ($2 for members of the Springfield Museums). The programs are sponsored by Big Y World Class Market. Visitors are invited to pick up lunch in the Museum Caf to enjoy during the program; dessert and beverage are provided.

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More than 40 students from the Community Music School of Springfield will present "The Stars of Summer," a recital at the Springfield Museums on June 18, from noon until 3:30 p.m.

The young performers, who range in age from 5 to 18, have been studying under Montenia Shider, one of the area's leading jazz vocalists. They will be accompanied on the piano by Montenia's great-nephew, Terrance Shider. The program will also include a performance by the children's gospel choir known as "Gifted."

The recital is free and open to the public. It will be held outdoors on the plaza of the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum at the Quadrangle. In case of rain, the program will be held inside the Museum of Fine Arts.

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The Springfield Museums are located at the Quadrangle off Edwards Street in downtown Springfield. Free parking is available in the Edwards Street parking lots. Hours are Wednesday through Friday, noon-4 p.m. (also Tuesdays in July & August), and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for college students with ID, $3 for children 6-17, and free for children under six and museum members. The fee provides admission to all four museums and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. Springfield students are free with their Springfield Library card. Springfield residents are free on Fridays with their Springfield Library card.

For information, call 413-263-6800 or visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.