Spring Arrivals

Cedar waxwings at Shiloh Museum.

Cedar waxwings are a sure sign of spring on the museum grounds. Photo by Aaron Loehndorf

There are many signs to the coming of spring. Here at Shiloh it is usually the appearance of spring flowers, ground bees buzzing, and wildlife returning, both human and non. One of the sure signs that happen each year around this time for several days is the appearance of cedar waxwings. These playful birds often travel in large groups. Here at the museum, one or two waxwings arrive first and are followed shortly by larger numbers. In the springtime, they pick at the blossoms of our hackberry trees; in the fall, they will return for a feast of holly berries.

Cedar waxwings at the Shiloh Museum

Three ninjas. Photo by Aaron Loehndorf

These “ninjas,” as one staff member called them, silently appear and make their presence known with their calls. Cedar waxwings have two calls. One is a high-pitched, trilled “bzeee” and the other a sighing whistle. Visit Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology for audio clips of each call.

Leucistic robin at the Shiloh Museum

A leucistic robin takes refuge on the museum grounds. Photo by Aaron Loehndorf

Another wildlife sign of spring is the occasional glimpse of a leucistic American robin. Leucism is from the German leucimus, which is from the Greek leukόs for “clear, white.” It is caused by reduced pigmentation which causes pale color or patches of reduced coloring. Unlike albinism which is caused by a lack of melanin, leucism inhibits melanin and other pigments as well.

Adjacent to Spring Creek and right on the Razorback Regional Greenway, our museum campus is a great spot for a nature walk. Bring the family, but please remember to respect the flora and fauna that call this little downtown oasis home.

Aaron Loehndorf is the Shiloh Museum’s collections and education specialist.


Plowing New Ground

Aaron behind the plow. Photo by Judy Costello

Professional development opportunities and conferences are opportunities to not only network with colleagues from across the country, but in some cases around the world. Recently education manager Judy Costello and I were fortunate to be able to travel to Mumford, New York, for the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) annual conference. This year’s conference theme was “Breaking Through Barriers: Living History in Modern Times.”

Like many other conferences, there were sessions about the work of different museums and historic sites as well as the opportunity to visit several sites in the area. But there are a couple of traditions that are unique to ALHFAM conferences. One such tradition is the Plowing Match, where conference attendees can sign up to plow a furrow. This year at Genesee Country Village & Museum the competition involved directing a team of oxen.

The finished furrow. Pretty good for a beginner! Photo by Judy Costello

There were three categories offered in the contest: novice, apprentice, and expert. Since I have never plowed before, I signed up as a novice. Matt Sanbury of Genesee Country Village & Museum walked alongside us novices as we plowed, giving  tips about which way to lean the plow as we guided the oxen team.

In the end there were over forty people who took the plowing challenge, including twenty-six novices. It was quite a surprise during the closing banquet when I was awarded third place in the novice category and was given a commemorative mug made by Mark Presher, master potter at Genesee.

The top five in the novice class. Photo by Judy Costello

While I do not expect to be plowing anytime soon here at Shiloh, being able to participate in historic trades like plowing allows us to convey what people in the Ozarks historically had to deal with on a daily basis.

Aaron Loehndorf is the Shiloh Museum’s collections and education specialist.