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Animal-focused exhibit at National Building Museum promises ‘cabinet of curiosities’

The exhibit features more than 125 architectural objects depicting animals and opens on April 20

Owl maquette for the Chicago Public Library by Raymond Kaskey, via Kaskey Studio
National Building Museum

Sounds like a hoot: More than 125 architectural objects portraying animals are the focus of a new National Building Museum exhibit scheduled to run from April 20 through spring 2020. “Animals, Collected” draws from the museum’s permanent collection and includes objects from the Washington National Cathedral, the American Brick Collection, and other sources.

Many of the objects have never before been publicly displayed, the museum said in a recent release. “Imagined as a cabinet of curiosities, Animals, Collected presents two- and three-dimensional materials that encourage closer inspection of the buildings we see every day,” it explained. “As ornament on municipal buildings and monuments, churches and warehouses, animals have appeared on structures and statues across time, geography, and function.” The exhibit is organized by animal habitat, and objects will show design and construction efforts.

The exhibit features more than 50 animal species in various media: drawings, photographs, models, building materials, and tools. “Depictions of animals have been used as shorthand for ideas, individuals, and character traits for thousands of years, all over the globe,” notes the museum. Some of the objects depict familiar animals like dogs and fish; others, mythical creatures like dragons and gargoyles. The permanent collection boasts over 250,000 objects.

Stone art sketch of polar bears by Heinz Warneke, via National Cathedral (20th century)
National Building Museum
Photograph of a sea animals sculpture by Byron Chambers, via National Cathedral (20th century)
National Building Museum
Dapper dogs architectural drawing from Indiana, via Northwestern Terra Cotta Company (1907)
National Building Museum
Dragon in bitumen mold for plaster ornament, via Eli Nassim and Debra Picker collection
National Building Museum

National Building Museum

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