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RTPI Planning For May 29 Reopening

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute will reopen May 29 after a six-month restoration.

The announcement came in a news release this week from the institute, which was also celebrating the 87th anniversary of Peterson’s A Field Guide To Birds. Born and raised in Jamestown, Roger Tory Peterson spent his entire career helping people to see and appreciate nature. In his 87 years, his greatest single contribution was the creation of the modern field guide.

“Roger’s first field guide was an instant success,” said Arthur Pearson, CEO of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown. “At the height of the Great Depression, the first thousand copies sold out in two weeks. People were hungry to learn the names of the birds in their own backyards.”

Peterson’s illustrations made it easy for anyone – professional ornithologists and amateur nature loves, alike – to make quick accurate identifications in the field. The field guides also included helpful markers, pointing out the key features of a bird – a cardinal’s red crest, for instance. The Peterson Identification System, as it came to be known, was so effective that the United States military used it during World War II to identify military aircraft from all nations.

“Roger’s art mattered,” Pearson said. “Literally until the day he died, he worked tirelessly at his craft to inspire everyone to fall in love with the nature he loved so dearly.”

The Peterson guides are credited with giving rise to the birding, conservation and environmental movements of today. In the United States alone there are an estimated 50 million birders. During the past year, the Peterson field guides have become more important than ever as people spent more time outdoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So many people bought their first Peterson guides this year and have been discovering the natural world through Roger’s artistry,” Pearson said. “Just as many have dusted off their vintage Peterson field guides, family heirlooms, and taken them for a walk in the woods.”

RTPI recently asked folks to celebrate the 87th anniversary of Peterson’s first field guide by posting a picture of their first field guide. Thousands of pictures have been posted to Twitter and Facebook, generating tens of thousands of likes and shares. Area residents are welcome to join in the effort. Field guides are available at RTPI’s Snowy Owl online museum store. RTPI also hosts a free walk at 9 a.m. Wednesdays on the Peterson Preserve, its 27-acre nature sanctuary.

“RTPI is the living embodiment of Roger’s field guide,” Pearson stated. “Inspired by Roger, we are a trusted source of information, inspiration and illumination.”

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