Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History
When they visit the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, younger visitors may be fascinated to know that Peterson, the museum’s namesake, became fascinated with birds, flora and fauna when he joined a chapter of the Audubon Society in seventh grade.
The young Peterson went on to study and sketch birds in the forests bordering Jamestown, where he was born in 1908.
A budding naturalist, Peterson grew up to write and illustrate Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds, the first and — to this day — foremost guide to identifying the feathered creatures. Published in 1934, the book quickly sold out at $2.50 a copy.
The inventor of the modern field guide, as he is now considered, went on to publish more than 50 texts on fish, mushrooms, mammals, stars and more — all of them notable for Peterson’s exquisite paintings and eloquent prose.
To learn more about his contributions, as well as those of other famous ornithologists, visit the institute’s library, which houses books, correspondence, photographs and movies from Peterson’s personal collection. The adjacent RTPI Art Gallery offers a look at Peterson’s original paintings, as well a first edition of Peterson’s Field Guide.
Borrow a pair of binoculars and look through the institute’s handsome high windows, as you try to spot the birds that Peterson described. Better yet, get a copy of Peterson’s original guide and head out into the very forest where he began his work.
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