Whatcom Museum's Syre Center opens for two weeks

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 20, 2013 

For the second year in a row, the Whatcom Museum is opening its cherished Syre Center for two precious weeks after school lets out for the summer.

Visitors will be able to see the local natural history exhibits and the popular collection of taxidermy birds that are open to the public only for special events. In addition, several classes will be offered free with paid admission.

"This year, we're really focusing on the birds. People love it," said Mary Jo Maute, the museum's education and public programs coordinator. "The building and the exhibits are wonderful for people to see."

At 2 p.m. Thursday, June 20, the museum's first open day, North Cascades Audubon Society president Paul Woodcock will lead a tour of the bird exhibit - which features nearly 500 examples, including about 300 species found in Western Washington, Maute said. He'll discuss local birds and their migration and relate some of the history of the taxidermy exhibit, which was donated to the museum.

Other classes include "Bird Nest and Eggs," taught by Maute from 1-1:30 p.m. Friday, June 21.

Registration is required for the classes, because they are limited in size even though they are free with museum admission. To register, call Maute at 360-778-8961. There's also "Birds on the Fly" from 1-2:30 p.m. Thursday, June 27; "Clay Bird Art" at 2 p.m. Friday, June 28; "Feathers and Flight in Fine Art" from 1-2 p.m. Saturday, June 29; and "Adapting to Life on the Sea and Marsh" at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 30.

For the nest and egg identification class, Maute said she's planning a group activity.

"I think we'll build a collaborative nest," she said." Everybody's always fascinated by that."

For "Birds on the Fly," the museum's Chris Brewer will discuss birds' adaptation to flight.

"She's going to focus on how fast and how high birds fly," Maute said.

The Syre Center is one of three buildings that make up the Whatcom Museum. It's next to the iconic Old City Hall galleries on Prospect Street and just a block away from the museum's new Lightcatcher galleries on Flora Street.

Built in 1926 as Bellingham Fire Department Station No.1, the Syre Center is a natural history museum focusing on Whatcom County. Budget cuts forced its closure in 2005.

Displays include a collection of American Indian artifacts, including those representing Inuit tribes of Alaska and local Coast Salish nations. Also featured is a display of native woven baskets.

There's a full-size diorama of a rural pioneer cabin from the 1900s, next to an urban Victorian bedroom and parlor from the same era - a juxtaposition that contrasts the period lifestyles.

The Syre Center, 201 Prospect St. at Flora Street, will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday from Thursday, June 20, to Sunday, June 30. A special $5 fee admits visitors to all three museums. Museum members are admitted free and can attend the special classes.

For more information, go online to whatcommuseum.org and look under "events," or call 360-778-8930.

Robert Mittendorf is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Contact him at 360-756-2805 or at robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com.

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