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Birds of America in Philadelphia

The beautiful hand-colored illustrations of the Birds of America, completed in 1827 by John Audubon, are on display at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, an organization that once spurned Audubon’s membership request because he was “arrogant and boisterous.”

In a daily event that draws many onlookers, workers at the museum carefully turn the page to reveal another astonishing rendering of one of America’s birds.  Because the book is so large, at 26 by 38 inches, even big birds such as the bald eagle are rendered life-sized.

There were 200 copies made of the originals in the early 1800s, and about 120 copies remain today.  The last one sold at auction sold for an astounding 10 million dollars.

The Audubon illustrations were the first of their kind.  Before Audubon, images of birds were in black and white.  Audubon killed the birds, posed them in natural ways with wire, and then drew full color, beautiful illustrations in an effort to educate and preserve.

The ritual at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University museum has drawn some die-hard observers, who show up every day or every other day to see the unveiling of the next bird.  It is helping to bring avid bird fans and curious youngsters together to enjoy this special time.

While you may not get to see very many, taking a trip to Philadelphia may be worth your while to see the famed illustrations in person.  The page is turned five days per week at 3 o’clock, so if you show up a little bit early, you can see yesterday’s bird before the page is turned.  If you live in the area, this is a great way to educate your kids on the beautiful birds in our country.