Extinct Extant


During a behind the scenes tour of the Zoology Department at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I learned that DMNS encourages artists’ to develop works based on their collections. Captivated by the drawers and drawers of bird skins in the Ornithology section, I made an appointment to come in and photograph skins of birds either certainly extinct, or believed to be extinct.
This was in 2011. Since then, I have found great pleasure in reading different accounts, ranging from essays to encyclopedic style entries, about the seven birds featured, along with several other species of extinct birds. I have considered that the continued existence of these birds in the form of skins, specimens and eggs at museums worldwide, is perhaps indicative of a human tendency to preserve remains rather than protect life. I also consider that both impulses, to protect as well as preserve, are as much a part of contemporary endeavor as statistic gathering. Preservation, along with advances in the science of cloning, has some pondering the startling possibility that extinct creatures might be reborn. Preservation, and the work of writers such as Christopher Cokinos (Hope is the Thing With Feathers) and Errol Fuller (Extinct Birds) give many extinct bird species at a chance at another form of life. A life lived through story. As Cokinos writes in his introductory remarks “We may never restore vanished birds through the promise of cloning . . . But we can restore—we can restory—these vanished birds to our consciousness.”

Extinct Extant features seven bird species: Bachman’s Warbler, Carolina Parakeet, Dusky Seaside Sparrow, Eskimo Curlew, Heath Hen, Ivory Billed Woodpecker and the Passenger Pigeon. Provided for each species are a photograph of skins held in the collection of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science Zoology Department, a brief synopsis of their existence, attributes and habits, a map of their geographical range, a reproduction of a painting of the species by either John James Audubon or Mark Catesby, their scientific classification, binomial name, conservation status, the etymology of the bird’s common name and a listing of the species’ collective nouns.

Based on an enhanced accordion binding structure designed by Hedi Kyle.

Printing/Reproduction Process: Photographs of birds are digitally printed on an Epson inkjet printer with UltraChrome inks. Text and image pages are solid ink color prints, envelopes are hand printed, labels and spine text laser etched.

Additional Contributors: Skins provided for photographing by Collections of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; book includes reproductions of paintings by John James Audubon and Mark Catesby; includes reproductions of habitat maps from Natureserve.
University of Washington
Emory University
Lafayette College
various private collections