Living with Wolves
of an Exhibit
by Kristen Vogt
Published on June 05, 2013
Museum: The Field Museum
Visit Date: April, 2013
The latest exhibit held in the Field Museum, ‘Living with Wolves’ records the experience of Jim and Jamie Dutcher, as they observed wild wolves while deep inside the interior of Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness. Using both intimately detailed portraits of the wolves themselves, as well as a constructed narrative about the folk tales, myths, and legends of wolves around the world. Overall, the exhibit paints a multi-dimensional portrait of American wolves and their relationship with humanity, through pictures, graphs, and a constructive narrative surrounding the wolves.
The exhibit is centered on the photographs taken in the Idaho wilderness by the Dutchers, as well as graphs taken from National Geographic magazine. These graphs, though perhaps repetitive to fervent readers of the magazine, help illustrate the issues present with wolves in the American West. They also serve to better illustrate the impact of wolves in the environment, as highlighted by the case of wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park (as seen in the illustrations below). Additionally, these graphs serve to not only give the visitors a personal, close-up of the wolves and their detailed pack relationship, but also to help comprehend complex issues that visitors to the museum themselves may be divided on, such as the protection of rancher’s rights and the new possibility of wolf hunting permits in Montana and Wyoming. In addition to graphs and pictures illustrating the Dutchers’ observations and narrative of the graphs surrounding impact and issues with wolves, visitors are treated to sounds of wolves in the wild underneath the center portion of the exhibit.
There were multiple visitors within the exhibit, many of whom were on a field trip or in small family units. Most of these visitors seemed interested in the photographs, even younger attendees who might not have initially seemed engaged by the stagnant pictures at hand. Perhaps it was the intimate quality of the photographs, or the sounds of wolf howls that permeated the room, but many visitors lingered at the pictures, and were quite verbal about them as well. Much of these verbal statements of visitors centered on the physical attributes of the wolves (“They’re so fluffy!” “So big!”) as well as the natural setting of the wolves’ territory (“Look at the pretty sunset!”), and positive
Although less interactive then other exhibits, the warm portraits of the wolves and their territory constructed by the Dutchers, as well as the open-ended graphs, left room for visitors to construct their own opinions about the wolves in both the Sawtooth Range and the wider American West. Additionally, the well-documented pictures and intimate gallery atmosphere gave the exhibit a close, and inviting learning environment for those visitors interested in taking a break from the larger, taxidermy collection outside.
Overall, this exhibit continues the excellent tradition of the Field Museum’s exhibits on wildlife and conservation, and is strongly recommended for visitors interested in exploring the impact and story of this portrait of wolves in the American west.