The National Geographic Society has designated 2018 as “The Year of the Bird” in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treat Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. So, we too are celebrating with artifacts that depict birds and/or feathers in some form. Bird feathers have been used for decoration in many cultures in addition to western fashion, sometimes almost leading to extinction. While feathers decorating women’s hats were partially to blame in the late 19th century, unregulated sport and market hunting and “boys’ mischief” were bigger factors.
Depictions of birds such as the phoenix, crane, and peacock in East Asian textiles hold symbolic meanings. The Phoenix represents the Empress and cranes often appear on wedding kimono as a symbol of faithfulness and longevity. Use of peacock feathers are also considered taboo on the theatrical stage.
Visit the Thompson Library Special Collections Display Cases for additional artifacts celebrating The Bird!