Chained to the Sky: The Science of Birds, Past & Future

Among the items displayed are bird study skins on loan from the Field Museum, including the extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet.

The Linda Hall Library proudly presents a free exhibition, Chained to the Sky: The Science of Birds, Past & Future. For millennia, birds have been deified, celebrated in art and song, hunted, mass-produced for food and feathers, and for a great many, sent to extinction. Chained to the Sky tells the story of the human relationship with the avian world, the threats birds face today, and what we can do to protect them.

The three-part ornithology exhibition features rare books from the Linda Hall Library’s collection and items on loan from the Field Museum that will give visitors one of the most comprehensive histories of ornithology assembled in North America.


The high visibility and aesthetic appeal of birds have captured the human imagination from ancient times to today. In this gallery, trace the history of ornithological studies from early scientists and artists describing and classifying birds to today’s biologists working in laboratories and in the field. The exhibition showcases birds lost to history, presenting extinct and nearly extinct bird study skins on loan from the Field Museum, including the extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet, as well as the Snow Egret, nearly hunted to extinction in the early 20th century for its plumes in the millinery trade.


The legacies of Charles Darwin and John James Audubon are reminders of the importance of studying and protecting the natural world. In this gallery, explore the landmark works of Audubon and Darwin that continue to inspire and inform our place in the natural world.

The exhibition features a limited-edition facsimile reprint of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, vol. 1 published in 1971. It is open to display a flock of the now extinct Carolina Parakeets.


Discover the threats facing birds today and what science and the public can do to protect them. In this gallery, learn practical tips to create bird-friendly habitats in your own backyard and explore how recent initiatives in Missouri have enhanced bird conservation, such as the Brown-headed Nuthatch, which was recently reintroduced in the Ozarks after becoming extinct in the state 100 years ago.

In addition to the exhibition, Linda Hall Library’s 14-acre arboretum is an example of bird conservation strategies in Kansas City. More than 20 unique bird species can be found using the arboretum for feeding and nesting. Visitors are encouraged to spend time in the arboretum observing our native species using the same methods pioneered by the likes of Darwin and Audubon.

The exhibition is free and is open through April 26, 2024, Monday – Friday, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM and 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM the second Saturday of each month at the Library, located at 5109 Cherry Street in Kansas City, Missouri. For more information, visit lindahall.org.

KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.

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