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Keynote Lecture. Dolly Jørgensen

Displaying Displacement: Exhibiting Extinct Birds and Their Ecosystems in Natural History Museums


Dolly Jørgensen


Professor of History at the University of Stavanger, Norway.



We are currently living through the sixth mass extinction of species on planet Earth. As humans have become aware of the extinction or imminent end of non-human animal species over the last two hundred years, there have been active attempts to understand the loss. The historical events of specific extinctions have often been narrated into a coherent story for the visitor to natural history museums.Using the case of displays of extinct birds, I will discuss the displacement of the animals from their ecosystems through their emplacement in the natural history museum. In my museum research across the world, I have only encountered one extinct bird displayed as part of a habitat diorama: a greak auk at the natural history museum in Oslo. I will compare how this great auk display differs fromothers in its environmental communication, affect, and geographical mindfulness. Through an investigation of the geography of birds which can never again fly free, I will probe the disconnect that is created in exhibition practice that favors isolating the specimen as an aesthetic object rather than a once-living being that inhabited the world.

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