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Museums

Fall 2014

Where the heart is

Ten years ago, artist Jim Dine left his heart in Pullman. The 12-foot-tall painted bronze sculpture called The Technicolor Heart—a blue beacon covered with ordinary items like hammers, shoes, clamps, and flashlights—has stirred conversation and controversy.

Now the world-famous sculptor and printmaker is giving Washington State University a whole collection of more than 200 prints representing his work from 1967 to 2011. Valued at over $1.8 million, this print donation will be the largest university museum collection of Dine prints in the world and one of the largest collections of his prints ever assembled.

Cincinnati native Dine grew up around his grandfather’s hardware store and … » More …

Winter 2010

Nature twice: Poetry and natural history

I lean on a glass case that displays stuffed egrets, herons, and sparrows. Across the room, Larry Hufford—director of the Conner Museum of Natural History and professor in the School of Biological Sciences—taps data into his computer. Larry is tall with thick graying hair and sharp blue eyes. I’m a full foot shorter, and this, coupled with the fact that I’m a professor in the English Department, makes for an unusual collaboration.

I used to feel alien in Larry’s scientific domain, even though my office is just a five-minute walk across campus. But over the last six years, Larry and I have … » More …

Videos of the Conner Museum

A series of videos introducing WSU’s Conner Museum and its work in research, education, and public service. The Charles R. Conner Museum features the largest public collection of birds and mammals in the Pacific Northwest, and the scientific collection used by researchers houses over 65,000 specimens.

Read “Fine Specimens” in the Winter 2008/09 issue.

On the web

Video: How to Clean a Skull (Hint: Flesh-Eating Beetles) :: Wired.com

Morbid Anatomy :: A blog surveying the interstices of Art and Medicine, Death and Culture

Education and Public Displays at the Conner Museum

Why is lead shot bad for birds? Is it … » More …

Winter 2008

Fine Specimens

Washington State University is home to three superb research collections, all begun soon after the young agricultural college opened its doors. What makes them research collections, says Ownbey Herbarium director Larry Hufford, is "sheer numbers." The Conner Zoology Museum has about 69,000 specimens, the Herbarium about 375,000, and the James Entomology Collection more than 1.25 million. These numbers make WSU's collections among the best in the nation. » More ...

Value of the collections

“[The collections] answer to a lot of people,” says Rich Zack. “They answer a lot of questions, and at times they can generate funds, but it’s not a steady stream of funds. Often you’re answering small questions from hundreds of people.” Any one of those hundreds might get along OK if the collections shut down, “but because we serve so many, it would be a major loss,” says Zack.

Anthropologist Karen Lupo, whose students make frequent use of the Conner Museum’s bone collection, says she was disturbed to learn that WSU once considered closing the Conner. With new analytical techniques making collections more valuable than … » More …

Where the Conner specimens come from

“We get a lot of things that people might not think we’d get a lot of,” says Kelly Cassidy. She opens a drawer to reveal one cedar waxwing and five Bohemian waxwings that were brought in by a Pullman resident on a single day. They’d flown into her window after being spooked by something. Students and faculty regularly bring in songbirds that have dashed their brains out on the glassed-in walkway between Abelson Hall and the Science Library. “It’s a terrible bird killer because it’s clear all the way through,” Cassidy says. Other animals make their way into the collection as road kill. Barn owls, for … » More …

Stable isotope work at WSU

Several WSU scientists are gearing up to use stable isotope analysis to ask new questions of the Conner’s specimens. Physiologists Ray Lee and Hubert Schwabl joined Dick Johnson and visiting scientist Elizabeth Yohannes of Germany’s Max Planck Institute to do stable isotope analysis on hairs from small mammals collected on the Palouse over the past hundred years. Their study lays the groundwork for explorations of habitat and dietary changes in mammals, similar to those done with marbled murrelets and other birds. Yohannes has also outlined plans to do SIA with elephant teeth that former WSU zoologist Irven O. Buss donated to the Conner Museum in … » More …

Tracking a cattle disease

In addition to consulting botanists at the Ownbey Herbarium, retired veterinarian Clive Gay and range scientist Ernie Motteram have dipped into the specimen drawers and expertise at the James Entomology Collection. They have  been working with cattlemen in central Washington to pinpoint the insect vectors for pinkeye, the general name for a number of nasty eye infections. Ranchers in Kittitas County have told Motteram that pinkeye is their biggest herd health problem. He says the conventional wisdom that we already know all we need to know about pinkeye is dead wrong. Almost all of the scientific literature on pinkeye is old and doesn’t take into … » More …