Bird Illustrators

The Ornithology collection is used for more than research and historical purposes. Many artists make use of the specimens to ensure accuracy in their artworks or as a source of inspiration. The illustrations in most field guides are based, at least in part, on museum specimens.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo Illustration

WT Cooper © WT Cooper

Australian Museum specimens have been extensively employed for the colour plates in many key ornithological texts. Professional artists who have used the Australian Museum collections include Neville W Cayley and William T Cooper, who indicated which specimens they used by notations on the back of their original artworks.

An illustration of Gallicolumba salamonis by John Cox for the book Pigeons and Doves was painted from one of only two known specimens. Cox used the Australian Museum holotype (the first collected specimen of a species), as it was the only one available to him.

The use of the specimens is not restricted to professional painters. Students (both secondary and tertiary), amateur artists and the general public also consult the collection. Photographers use study skins, mounted specimens, eggs, nests and skeletons in their work. Museum specimens have also served as reference material for the production of movies such as Babe II: Pig in the City, Happy Feet and Moulin Rouge.


Dr Walter Boles , Senior Fellow
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