Shoreline, Skyline, Treetop Messenger

Juneau Projects, community artwork sculpture and publication, 2020

Rose Nicholson, Heritage Manager

During the Covid-19 lock-down of 2020, staff at the Museum worked with artists Juneau Projects and Invisible Dust to create a community artwork. ‘Shoreline, Skyline, Treetop Messenger’ consists of a book and sculpture. Both pieces take inspiration from the Museum’s taxidermy collection. The pieces were created using artworks made by members of the public over Zoom workshops.

Juneau Projects are artists Philip Duckworth and Ben Sadler. They work across a broad range of art media including painting, sculpture, animation, performance, music and installation. Their work is often made in collaboration with other people. It focuses on the relationship between society, culture and the natural world.

Juneau Projects were invited to make a new artwork inspired by the Museum’s natural history collection. They focused on the collection of mounted bird specimens. Particularly in relation to contemporary issues of biodiversity and species loss.

Red-backed Shrike from the Museum’s taxidermy collection.
Corncrakes from the Museum's taxidermy collection.

The artists collaborated with scientists and researchers. They looked at the collection in relation to historic and contemporary bird populations in the local area. For example, according to Hull University bird scientist Lucas Mander: “There is a species in the collection that is virtually extinct from the UK: the red-backed shrike. There are a few species which have declined sharply in the UK such as Curlew, Lapwing, Cuckoo, Corncrake, Hen harrier.”

Based upon this research, Juneau Projects ran online workshops. People from the local area created images of birds using painting, papercutting, lino printing and wax modelling. The resulting artworks combined to produce a book and sculpture. The book includes photographs by local photographers alongside the illustrations. The scientists were also invited to write pieces about their work. Copies of the book can be purchased from the Museum Shop.

The artwork takes the form of a display cabinet similar to those housing the taxidermy bird collection. It contains bronze cast birds created by local people during the workshops.

A Young Curators program ran alongside the Juneau Projects commission. The six Young Curators; Sam De Freitas, Lucy Bowley, Lewis Robbins, Hannah Jean Moulds, Kathryn Spence and Charley Rob, came together as the Common Ground collective.

With the guidance and support of Invisible Dust and local artist Hayley McPhun, Common Ground were tasked with curating a complementary exhibition. This exhibition trail would be on show in the run up to the opening of the Juneau Projects installation. Their trail featured six artists in four locations along Scunthorpe’s High Street. The artists featured were Cameron Lings, Laura Alice Thompson, Melody Clark, Anneli Frampton, Gwen Siôn and Garry Barker. Though the trail has now finished, information about the artists and trail route can still be viewed on the Common Ground website.

Common Ground took part in one of the wax modelling workshops with Juneau Projects. Their finished bronze birds are now part of the installation at the Museum. Some of Common Ground visited the Museum during the install. This was their first opportunity to see their finished bronze birds. They also got to meet Ben and Phil from Juneau Projects and watch the installation coming together.

A film about the project can be viewed here:

The project was commissioned by arts organisation Invisible Dust, as part of the ‘Surroundings’ project, in collaboration with the Humber Museums Partnership. It contributes to Invisible Dust’s mission to encourage awareness of, and meaningful responses to, climate change and environmental issues. Funded by Arts Council England through Ambitions for Excellence and Wellcome Trust Sustaining Excellence. Taxidermy photography by R&R Studio. Installation photography by Nick Harrison. Film by Guy Loftus.

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