The Hatching of Oology at the County Museum
How did the fifth largest collection of eggs in the world end up at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands? “The Hatching of Oology” explains how more than 100,000 eggs came to be preserved in the museum’s permanent collections and exhibited in their avian galleries. This special exhibit opens on Saturday, June 4 in the museum’s Schuiling Gallery and is free with museum general admission.
Wilson C. Hanna (1883-1982) started collecting bird eggs when he was 4 years old. Born in Leadville, Colorado, he came with his family to Banning in 1884 and moved to Colton in 1889, where he lived for the rest of his life. He worked for the California Portland Cement Company for 50 years, serving as chief chemist, chemical engineer, technical development director, and vice-president. Hanna was a civic leader, a director of the Colton Chamber of Commerce, a trustee of the Colton Public Library, and an internationally-known ornithologist.
Hanna built his collection of eggs through active collecting and trade. Such collecting by knowledgeable avocational naturalists was not uncommon in the early 20th century, and Hanna estimated that “thousands of persons” contributed to his assemblage of eggs and nests. The Hanna collection of eggs and nests was donated to the San Bernardino County Museum in the 1960s.
“The Hatching of Oology” shows photographs of Hanna collecting eggs and nests along with examples of the equipment he used to gather and catalog the specimens. Egg sets, nests, and original labels and field notes are shown to illustrate the mechanics of building a huge natural history collection. The exhibit also explains the importance of the egg collection to active research projects, such as chemical studies that can determine the changing levels of pesticides in the environment over time.
How many eggs does it take to comprise the 5th largest collection in the world? More than 135,000, with 41,000 egg sets. The largest egg collection in the world is housed in Camarillo by the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology (800,000 eggs, 176,000 sets), followed by the British Museum (610,000 eggs), the Delaware Museum of Natural History (520,000 eggs) and the National Museum of Natural History (“Smithsonian,” 190,000 eggs). Although the county museum still selectively accepts donations of eggs from collectors, its biological sciences division no longer actively collects eggs.
The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $6 (adult), $5 (student or senior), and $4 (child aged 5 to 12). Children under five and Museum Association members are admitted free. Parking is free. The museum’s Garden Café is open for beverages and snacks between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.sbcountymuseum.org or call (909) 307-2669 / TDD/TTY: (909) 792-1462.
The San Bernardino County Museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. If assistive listening devices or other auxiliary aids are needed in order to participate in museum exhibits or programs, requests should be made through Museum Visitor Services at least three business days prior to your visit. Visitor Services’ telephone number is (909) 307-2669 ext. 229 / TDD/TTY: (909) 792-1462.