Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Noted Historian Robert Peck to Relate Tales, Treasures from Audubon's Last Expedition


Robert McCracken Peck

CHESTERTOWN, MD—In the spring of 1843, the well known naturalist and artist John James Audubon set off from New York City on what was to be his longest and last great expedition of discovery.  With a small party of friends and associates, the self-proclaimed  “American Woodsman,” who had recently completed his landmark work, The Birds of America, traveled by boat from Saint Louis up the Missouri River to the mouth of the Yellowstone. Officially, he was gathering information and specimens for a newly launched book on American mammals, but he was also on the lookout for new birds.

In a slide lecture at Washington College on Thursday, Nov. 15, noted historian Robert McCracken Peck will use images of Audubon’s western paintings and the surviving specimens and artifacts gathered during his nine-month expedition to describe this last great adventure and put its accomplishments in context.  His talk will take place at 5 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts, on the main campus, 300 Washington Avenue. The event is free and open to the public.

A Fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (to which Audubon was elected a corresponding member in 1831), Peck is the author of the B.B.C. book Land of the Eagle: A Natural History of North America and co-author of A Glorious Enterprise: The Academy of Natural Sciences and the Making of American Science.  He was a consulting curator for the exhibition “Audubon in the West,” which traveled throughout the United States in 2000 and 2001. A fully illustrated catalog with essays by Mr. Peck and others accompanied the exhibition. In 2010 Peck and a colleague discovered Audubon’s first published illustration of a bird on an Ohio bank note.

Peck’s visit to Washington College complements the special exhibition in the College’s Kohl Gallery, “In Pursuit of Beauty: John J. Audubon and the Golden Age of Bird Illustration,” which continues through November 30. Peck consulted with curator Alex Castro for the exhibition. On display are 19 prints and 20 books that showcase works by Audubon (including a rare original watercolor of a pheasant) and other master naturalists of his era. The Gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m., and admission is free. 


Portrait of John J. Audubon

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