Roger Tory Peterson

A Trip to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History

from Talkin’ Birds Ambassador Candy Powell, Jamestown, RI

My husband Chris and I visited a very special place in late June on our way to a family event in Ohio: the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York.

Jamestown is just off Route 86, which runs along the southwest corner of New York State. It was Peterson’s hometown. The Institute was founded in 1984 as an educational institution to preserve and steward the lifetime body of works and the enduring legacy of Mr. Peterson. Its purpose is to promote the study of nature by providing opportunities for people to engage in art, conservation, and education.

The Institute is in a spectacular building that houses many original pieces of Mr. Peterson’s art, as well as a library displaying his favorite books and an exhibit of his birding equipment and birding “uniform.” A continuously-running video that Peterson took himself while birding several years ago is very entertaining. The Institute offers many opportunities for folks to learn about birds through bird banding sessions, art exhibits, invasive species monitoring, and projects for schoolchildren. The grounds include walking trails and a butterfly garden.

During our visit, Chris and I were especially impressed by the large exhibit of the art of Ned Smith, who is, believe it or not, almost as good a wildlife artist as Peterson was! It turns out there is a Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art in Millersburg, Pennsylvania that we hope to visit someday. In 2017, this Center hosted the first-ever traveling exhibit of Peterson’s work.

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute is a little off the beaten path, but well worth the trip. We hope to return.

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