Fashioning Feathers: Dead Birds, Millinery Crafts and the Plumage Trade

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Event Date: May 17 2011 – Jun 11 2011
Event Website: Event Webpage
City: Edmonton
Country: Canada


New NiCHE member Merle Patchett writes….
I would like to bring to your attention an exhibition – Fashioning Feathers: Dead Birds, Millinery Crafts and the Plumage Trade – that is opening May 17th 2011 at the FAB Galley, University of Alberta, Edmonton (see flyers attached).


“Feathers fascinate, feathers are fetishized, feathers are very much back in fashion. This exhibition takes us back to a time when the wings, bodies and heads of birds were used to adorn hats.


Fashioning Feathers… explores the complex geographies of collection, production and consumption behind the making of such ‘feather fashions’. From the hunting and killing of birds in their natural habitats, to their processing in metropolitan plumage sweatshops and crafting by professional and amateur milliners, to their becoming adornments on the heads of women in Europe and North America.


With all these human designs on bird feathers Fashioning Feathers… enlists the artwork of contemporary artists Kate Foster and Andrea Roe to help engage our curiosity to wonder at how birds use their feathers – and what we do to birds in the process of fashioning them.”


By tracing the movement of these commodities across time and place (and between states of life and death) the exhibition extends cultural geography methodology into an exhibitionary context and aims to develop upon non-anthropocentric approaches to the interpretation and display of animal remains.


As Edmonton is an out-of-the-way kind of place the exhibition website – – is intended to act as an online catalogue and extended exhibitionary space for Fashioning Feathers… In this way we seek to create a virtual space of engagement for those unable to attend the material manifestation of exhibition at the FAB Gallery.


The website headings (linked below) refer to the different sections of the material exhibition and in the online context entitle a series of extended curatorial essays that explore the exhibition themes in greater depth:


  1. Birds of Paradise – this space explores the relationships, practices and geographies behind the making and presence of millinery bird of paradise skins in a clothing and textiles collection in Western Canada. It includes audio and video recordings of birds of paradise in their natural habitats courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  2. Fashioning Feathers – this space explores the production processes involved in ‘fashioning’ feathers, from the harvesting of birds for their feathers on ‘feather farms’, to the crafting of feathers by plumassiers and in plume sweatshops.
  3. Muderous Millinery – this space seeks to outline the extent of the business of killing birds for the millinery trade and to evidence the efforts of various individuals and groups to bring an end to the international plumage trade.
  4. Ruffling Feathers – this space enlists the artwork of contemporary artists Kate Foster and Andrea Roe to help engage our curiosity to wonder at how birds use their feathers – and what we do to birds in the process of fashioning them.


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Laura Jean Cameron is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s University, Kingston, and coordinates the Sonic Arts of Place Lab. As a Canada Research Chair in Historical Geographies of Nature (2003-2012), her work has investigated a range of field sciences as place-based practices and as cultural encounters. Before arriving at Queen’s, she held a Junior Research Fellowship in Historical Geography at Churchill College, Cambridge (1999-2002). She is the author of Openings: A Meditation on History, Method and Sumas Lake, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997 and co-author with John Forrester of Freud in Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017. She also co-edited Emotion, Place and Culture, Ashgate, 2009 and Rethinking the Great White North: Race, Nature and the Historical Geographies of Whiteness, UBC Press, 2011. Currently she enjoys writing in various genres about fieldwork, emotions and nature, collaborating on sound installations, and hosting the Fireplace Series: Interdisciplinary Conversations, a podcast series you can listen to here:

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