AUDUBON, Penn. – On June 4, 2019, the John James Audubon Center (The Audubon Center), in partnership with Montgomery County and the National Audubon Society, celebrated the grand opening of a new 18,000-square-foot museum and nature-based facility with a ribbon cutting ceremony. A $13 million project, The Audubon Center expansion is funded through the County, a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and donations from dozens of individual and foundation supporters. The County’s Department of Assets and Infrastructure managed the construction process, which began in 2017.
The ceremony featured building tours and activities for 50 home-school students, plus remarks from Peter McFarland, Chairman of Lower Providence Township; David Ringer, Chief Network Officer at the National Audubon Society; Val Arkoosh, Chair of Montgomery County Commissioners; and Secretary Cindy Dunn of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“Montgomery County has preserved more than 6,000 acres of public open land, which includes seven parks, four historic sites and over 90 miles of trails in our regional network,” said Dr. Val Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “Our wealth of green space and native wildlife are said to have inspired the work of a young Audubon and we treasure that heritage. We are proud to include the John James Audubon Center at our historic Mill Grove site among our list of premier Montgomery County attractions and welcome the new museum as a destination for our residents and visitors to connect with nature.”
The Audubon Center offers interactive and family-friendly ways to explore the legacy of famed ornithologist John James Audubon and the conservation movement he inspired. It houses two galleries for art and conservation, permanent exhibits with multi-sensory experiences and outdoor features.
“John James Audubon has inspired generations of birders and nature lovers. This new museum offers an unmatched experience at Mill Grove to learn about his life in the early 1800s and how the wonders of birds, science and conservation have become a part of America’s way of life,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “There is something here for everyone that will spark intrigue in budding naturalists, birders and scientists, who will carry on Audubon’s work protecting birds and the places they need for decades to come. We’re proud to have partnered with Montgomery County and alongside community leaders to make this center for art and conservation possible.”
Galleries & Permanent Exhibits
Connect with Audubon – the man, the organization and the mission – through the use of artifacts and modern technology.
- Drawn From Nature – The John James Audubon Gallery: After losing his business in 1819, Audubon declared his intention to paint every bird in North America, resulting in the world-renowned body of work of 435 images known as The Birds of America. In this gallery, visitors can view one of the few surviving first editions of The Birds of America (sometimes called the “Double Elephant Folio” for its large size) and his lesser-known drawings of mammals from the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. A life-size digital version of The Birds of America will captivate guests as they browse featured species.
- WOW! Birds!: This space showcases the beauty, variety, sounds and songs, graceful flight and presence of birds along the Atlantic Flyway. Learn about the process of Bird Banding and its modern role in migration research. Immerse yourself in the Sound Forest to experience bird songs in different habitats. Take a close look at feathers and nests, and learn why not all eggs are shaped the same. Take Flight as you discover how birds' wings work and trace the migration patterns of your favorite flock via a digital flyway map.
- Conservation Gallery: Learn how the organization that bears the artist’s name – National Audubon Society – has become synonymous with bird conservation throughout the Americas. The story of Audubon’s Seabird Restoration Program and Project Puffin illustrate the organization’s pioneering work in saving and conserving rare and endangered species. Discover how Audubon biologists used creative methods of social attraction to restore the populations of Atlantic Puffins on the coast of Maine after nearly disappearing from this area that became the model for social attraction projects worldwide.
Become one with nature with interactive spaces outside.
- Pawlings Porch: Birdwatch over a wildflower meadow and learn more about the birds and native plants in the area.
- Fledgling Trail: Funded by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Barbara and Ray Blydenburgh in conjunction with the Wyncote Foundation, this outdoor installation is a simulated experience based on a bird’s life from egg to flight. From "hatching" out of an oversized egg to feeling the sway of a "tree" and the first "flight," visitors will discover the steps that a baby bird must take to successfully leave the nest. The Fledgling Trail will also include a sensory garden, water features and ADA-accessible play areas.
The Resident Birds of Audubon
Meet the avian ambassadors (non-releasable wild birds) who are trained to educate people about their natural history and the challenges birds face.
- Abby, Scooter and Oscar the Screeching Owls
- Conrad the Blue Jay
- Hopper the Broad-winged Hawk
- Oden the Great Horned Owl
- Sherlock the Barred Owl
Starting June 7, take part in The Audubon Center’s weekend activities. Most are included with admission.
- Saturdays: Grab a pair of binoculars for a bird walk at 8 a.m., birdwatch from a canoe at 10 a.m., take a Historic House tour at 1 p.m., and meet the live resident birds who live on the property at 2 p.m. The canoeing activity is not included in the price of admission.
- Sundays: Take a Historic House tour at 1 p.m., then meet the live resident birds who live on the property at 2 p.m.
The Audubon Center is open Monday thru Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Mill Grove grounds are open year-round, from dawn until dusk.
Admission is $14 for adults; $12 for seniors ages 65+; $10 for youth ages 6 – 17; and free for youth age 5 and under and active military (along with immediate family members).
Building Fun Facts
Conshohocken-based Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site designed the eco-friendly building which reflects “life among the trees,” drawing inspiration from the surrounding landscape at Mill Grove that Audubon called home.
The exterior lines reflect the designer’s interpretation of a bird in flight, bolstered by “tree-like” columns that branch out to support the structure.
The building incorporates bird-safe windows, natural nesting places, an observation deck, gift shop and an adjoining look-out patio offering sprawling views.
Additional features include archival storage rooms, a classroom, offices and a catering facility that connects to a year-round event pavilion.
West Chester-based Gecko Group designed the exhibitions and installations inside the building.
About John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
The John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove is made possible through a partnership between Montgomery County (PA), the National Audubon Society and Audubon Pennsylvania. Completed in 2019, the state-of-the-art facility serves as an educational center dedicated to engaging visitors with the natural world of birds while preserving John James Audubon’s artistic, scientific and historic legacy, and celebrating the conservation movement he inspired. The Audubon Center stands on the 175-acre Mill Grove estate – a Montgomery County Historic Site that includes the original 1762 farmhouse and five miles of nature trails along the Perkiomen Creek. The Audubon Center joins the National Audubon Society’s network of more than 40 nature centers and sanctuaries in communities across the country. Learn more about the John James Audubon Center at www.johnjames.audubon.org and follow us on Instagram @audubonpa.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.
Audubon Pennsylvania, a state office of the National Audubon Society, conserves and restores natural ecosystems in Pennsylvania, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. Learn more at www.pa.audubon.org and by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @audubonpa.
About Montgomery County
Montgomery County, originally a part of Philadelphia County, was created by the Pennsylvania Assembly on September 10, 1784. Steeped in history and blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, they are one of the Commonwealth’s most vital and progressive counties. Montgomery County encompasses 483 square miles of exceptional housing, thriving malls, and shopping centers, rolling farmland, pristine rural areas, and vibrant office and industrial complexes populated by numerous Fortune 500 and multinational corporations.
There are 24 boroughs and 38 townships that make up Montgomery County. Norristown is the county seat with the courthouse located at Airy and Swede streets. The county’s population was estimated to be 821,725 in 2016, according to the US Census Bureau. For more about Montgomery County at www.montcopa.org and by following them on Facebook at @montgomery.county.pa and Twitter @montcopa.
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