On Preservation: A Portrait of William Temple Hornaday

Produced for the MEDIA LAB at the 2016 College Art Association Conference. Curated by Natalie Campbell.

The Walk

On February 6, 2016, we created a large-scale portrait of William Temple Hornaday in the District of Columbia by walking a course of GPS coordinates with a group of participants. As a group, we mapped his unseen presence onto the National Zoo to talk about the history of museum practices and conservation of natural resources.

Hornaday was the chief taxidermist for the US National Museum, which became the Smithsonian. As the extinction of the buffalo neared in 1886, he went west to collect specimens to preserve in the museum, both memorializing and destroying that which he hoped to preserve. He was so moved by the experience that he became a conservationist and that lead to the founding of the National Zoo with live specimens that he brought back. We think of this as a metaphor for our nation, sincere in our efforts but frequently misguided. Connections can be drawn to everything from climate change to foreign policy at this moment in American history.

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