Art, Collections and Resources, Exhibits, North Carolina Collection, North Carolina History, Special Collections

The Carolina Parakeet Returns in Wilson Library Exhibit

Image of Carolina Parakeet

Purchase reproduction of Mark Catesby's "Parrot of Carolina" to benefit Wilson Library

The Carolina Parakeet in Art: Images from the Powell Collection
June 21 – Sept. 30, 2012
North Carolina Collection Gallery
Wilson Special Collections Library
Free and open to the public
Information: Linda Jacobson, (919) 962-0104

Images of the exotic but now-extinct Carolina Parakeet will be on display this summer in the Wilson Special Collections Library.

Few people alive today would have seen the colorful bird before it disappeared for good in the early 1900s. A new exhibit, The Carolina Parakeet in Art: Images from the Powell Collection, will feature the bird in vivid detail. The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, runs through Sept. 30, 2012, in the North Carolina Collection Gallery.

Visitors to the exhibit will be able to see:

  • Approximately 40 prints, photographs of specimens, and paintings of the bird.
  • An original print—Carolina Parrot, no. 6—from the Havell edition (1827-1838) of John James Audubon’s Birds of America series. This edition was printed in a run of approximately 200 copies.
  • An illustration by British naturalist Mark Catesby in his book The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (1771 edition).
  • Books containing descriptions of the Parakeet by explorers Lewis and Clark, and by 17th-century Jesuit missionaries, and a news article noting the death of the last captive Parakeet in 1918.

The Carolina Parakeet and Relatives: A Look at Some Natural, Un-natural, and Cultural Histories

Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012
Wilson Library
Exhibit viewing at 5:15 p.m.
Program at 5:45 p.m.

John Gerwin and Brian O’Shea of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will share tales of the Carolina Parakeet and describe worldwide efforts to conserve endangered Parrots.

The Parakeet, also known as the Carolina Parrot, was plentiful in the 18th- and 19th-century Carolinas, Virginia, and other parts of the southeast. Early English settlers often described great flocks nesting together or in swamps.

“That quality of flocking probably helped lead to their extinction,” said Digital Projects and Outreach Librarian Emily Jack. Jack said poachers would sometimes capture dozens of roosting birds at a time by throwing a net over them as they slept in a tree hollow. Images of the bird were very popular in wallpaper and fabric designs, and hatmakers prized their feathers.

The birds also suffered from deforestation as early settlements grew, said Linda Jacobson, keeper of the North Carolina Collection Gallery. “The story of the Parakeet’s decline aligns closely with the development of the early colonies,” she said.

Many of the items on display were gifts of former North Carolina Collection Curator William S. “Bill” Powell and his wife, Virginia Powell. The Powells, of Chapel Hill, made a lifelong project of collecting materials related to the Parakeet.

Bill Powell, who authored more than 25 books and numerous articles on North Carolina, retired from the Library in 1973.

The Powells have donated other materials to the Libraries in recent years, including a 17th-century Book of Common Prayer, a 19th-century Bible, the 1702 edition of An Abridgement of Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World in Five Books, and the 1693 volume The Character of Queen Elizabeth.

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