Creating, rather than capturing, rare birds

Yale Peabody Museum preparator Michael Anderson's latest project is sculpting a series of rare or unusual bird species to complete the Connecticut Bird Hall at the Peabody Museum.

Michael Anderson, the chief preparator at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, is also a noted sculptor, perhaps best known for the huge Torosaurus sculpture in front of the museum. Now he is using his modeling talents to help fill in the blanks at the museum’s Connecticut Bird Hall.

“In the museum, the Connecticut Bird Hall is about 80% complete, but we have a wish list of rare or unusual birds that we just can’t find,” explains Anderson. ”Given the fact that we don’t go out and collect bird specimens like these anymore, we’re trying this experiment to put bird carvings into the Bird Hall to fill the holes, so people can at least see what the birds look like.”

Currently, he is working on a model of the Caspian tern, which is the largest and most widespread tern species.

Anderson came to Yale 25 years ago, after a five-year stint at the American Museum of Natural History, and holds a graduate degree in medical illustration and sculpting from the University of Illinois.

In addition to maintaining and enlarging the museum’s collection of scientific specimens, Anderson has sculpted models of everything from the world’s largest flower to some of the world’s smallest insects (the latter, albeit, in large-scale).

“That’s the kind of work I love to do — to work with scientists to make things as close to life-like as I can,” he says.

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