By Pat McShea
A Tundra Swan taxidermy mount recently left its perch above the touchable attractions of Discovery Basecamp to add a natural history strand to a literary discussion.
The big white bird played a supporting role in an event whose main attraction was Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. The site was Alphabet City, the City of Asylum’s literary center on Pittsburgh’s North Side that is bookstore, performance space, and restaurant. The topics under consideration by four panelists in front of an audience of some 170 guests included migration, immigration, and status of refugees.
is the title of a current series of events sponsored by Carnegie Nexus, an initiative of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh that seeks to utilize the resources of the four component museums and outside expertise to present insightful programming across the arts and sciences. As the discussion panelist representing the Museum of Natural History, I brought the taxidermy mount and
justified its presence as an important symbol in the wide- ranging discussion.
My remarks were set-up by co panelist Edith Doron, the senior program manager of Carnegie Nexus Projects. She quoted a former professor who once said: “All of literature tells one of two stories: ‘I left my home.” or ‘A stranger came to town.’”
I explained how some forty years ago, the “stranger” arriving in this town was more than 2,000 migrating Tundra Swans forced by a November storm to spend half a day resting on the Allegheny River just eight miles upstream from Pittsburgh’s Point. The event, I argued, positively changed all who witnessed it.
The Tundra Swan is back on its perch, but events in Carnegie Nexus series will continue through April 27. For a schedule and further information, please visit: https://nexus.carnegiemuseums.org/
Patrick McShea works in the Education and Visitor Experience department of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.