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This bird has a very characteristic black and white plumage, black beak and legs. Its dark feathers have a metallic sheen, green-navy one on wings, as well as scarlet on the head and back, distinguishing it from the corvids. The presented specimen is unique, because of a very rare gene mutation that caused a lack of pigmentation in this individual and, as a result, its white plumage in places where magpies normally have black or light-brown feathers.

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The Eurasian magpie (Pica pica) is a species from the corvids family (Corvidae). Magpies can be found over almost all of Europe and north-western parts of Africa. It is very common in Poland. It looks for locations with the maximum possible number of hiding places. Most often it can be found in towns or cities and their surroundings, because it likes areas without much greenery – especially higher plants – and nor is it bothered by the presence of people. However, it rarely occurs in forested areas (e.g. in Masuria). Magpies are omnivorous – they feed on insects, small mammals, seeds, carrion etc. – and their diet depends on the time of the year and place of residence.
This bird has a very characteristic black and white plumage, black beak and legs. Its dark feathers have a metallic sheen, green-navy one on wings, as well as scarlet on the head and back, distinguishing it from the corvids. The presented specimen is unique, because of a very rare gene mutation that caused a lack of pigmentation in this individual and, as a result, its white plumage in places where magpies normally have black or light-brown feathers.
The magpie is also interesting symbolically. It is usually pejoratively associated with bad qualities such as talkativeness, curiosity, staring, as well as a predisposition to stealing. It is believed that magpies are attracted by glitter’ because it collects shiny objects. However, recent studies have refuted this thesis – it turned out that magpies actually avoid shiny things. In many countries, it is a harbinger of unhappiness and even heralds death.

Elaborated by the editorial team of Małopolska's Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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Albinism – taming/condemning otherness

The notion of otherness – i.e. something foreign – functions in almost every culture, often synonymous with evil, and is burdened with negative connotations and responsibility for what the members of a given community experience (disease, poverty, conflicts, acts of violence)...

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The notion of otherness – i.e. something foreign – functions in almost every culture, often synonymous with evil, and is burdened with negative connotations and responsibility for what the members of a given community experience (disease, poverty, conflicts, acts of violence). Forms of otherness may vary, and similarly to black skin colour being condemned for centuries, many Asian cultures (also in black-skinned societies), one of the reasons for discrimination is albinism (a genetically determined condition involving a disturbance in skin pigmentation).
It is also interesting that in the case of animals, albinism is perceived positively. In Burma, the appearance of a white elephant (in fact its colour is light brown) is considered as a good omen. The authorities of this country, when making strategic decisions that could cause civil unrest, send their soldiers to the jungle to look for a white elephant. The presence of a “good sign” legitimizes their actions, and the animal is kept in captivity in case it is needed again for political purposes.
While white-furred animals promise a change for the better, the lack of melanin in the human body has legitimized acts of repression for centuries – to this day, many African communities are convinced that the appearance of an albino brings misfortune. Such opinions have become the source of brutal murders and hunts for albinos – e.g. in Tanzania. Women with abnormal pigmentation, and with red eyes, were accused of witchcraft. Behind the murders of both adults and children, carried out by organized gangs, stand mainly shamans and healers (due to poverty and difficult access to healthcare their position is still very strong) who use blood and body parts of albinos for magical rituals as well as traders who produce various types of amulets.
Though it sounds dramatic, a living albino is a source of evil, but a fragment of his tormented body becomes a talisman that guarantees health, wealth, and prosperity. Fishermen on Lake Victoria will weave albino hair into their nets, counting on their magical power and ensuring an abundant catch. In many cases, tombs of albinos are also profaned. To prevent these acts, they are usually flooded with concrete.
The Tanzanian authorities, alerted by the international community, have attempted to stabilize this situation by developing a protection program and running a general censuses for albinos (although there are still cases of violent murders and violations of human rights). In 2008, the UN became involved in this case by issuing a resolution condemning the wave of killings and acts of repression against this group.
In the same year, Al-Shaymaa Kwegyir   (an albino activist involved in defending the rights of people affected by albinism and helping the victims of mutilations) was elected to the Tanzanian parliament.

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See The Albino magpie in the collection of the Krystyna and Włodzimierz Tomek Natural Science Museum in Ciężkowice.

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On the creation of natural collections, dermoplasts and the art of dissection

Włodzimierz Tomek was a representative of a wide group of experts and aficionados of nature. He worked as a forester, and his hobby was hunting. Having linked his life to Ciężkowice, he decided to create a natural collection representing the flora and fauna of the Pogórze Ciężkowickie region...

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Włodzimierz Tomek was a representative of a wide group of experts and aficionados of nature. He worked as a forester, and his hobby was hunting. Having linked his life to Ciężkowice, he decided to create a natural collection representing the flora and fauna of the Pogórze Ciężkowickie region. The collections were enlarged by him over time are now exhibited in a museum established in his name. They have also become a historical image of the nature in this region – many of the exhibits obtained represent species which no longer inhabit this area any more. Another aspect of his activity was collecting objects related to natural history. The creation of private collections (exotic animals and plants), the activities of scientific institutions in the form of scientific exploratory expeditions to various regions of the world, interest in natural history (for example, palaeontology) resulted in the creation of collections which encompass both animate and inanimate nature. Furthermore, the collection was connected with the development of modern natural sciences, an important part of which was the development of taxonomy. The acquired exhibits were used in research and widely-created exhibitions of natural history which were extremely popular in the 19th century. The largest collections and the most famous museums, including the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Humboldt–Museum in Berlin, the Natural History Museum in London, date back to this period. Using these experiences, local amateur researchers began to create collections covering the fauna and flora from their immediate area. Many of these people were hunters, and their area of interest was the creation of hunting collections, presented in the aptly named hunting rooms. It is currently a separate branch of hunting culture, with its own typology of trophies and ethical principles (the hunter, when creating such a room, should only place trophies obtained by himself in it). Both collecting hunting trophies and creating natural collections is associated with the development of preparatory activities, that is, the ability to anatomize the exhibits skilfully in order to preserve their durability, and in the case of hunting collections, also skills related to the ability to depict the “living animal” in the most faithful manner possible, for example, while hunting. The objects from the Museum in Cieżkowice presented in the collection of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums have the character of the so-called dermoplasts. This type of dissection involves stretching the skin of a given animal (properly protected against being damaged by the used chemicals – in the past, among others, this included arsenic) on a specially shaped (wooden or plastic) mould corresponding to the physical body of the animal. Next, the exhibit is stitched and supplied with accessories such as glass eyes, teeth etc. Dermoplasts are then often used in natural dioramas, i.e. special exhibition panels showing some fragment of the environment (a forest, lake) or a scene from wildlife (feeding, hunting). In conclusion, the collection from Ciężkowice is ideologically based on the idea of both a scientific collection and hunting collections. It has evolved from a hunting collection into a scientific collection.

Elaborated by: Piotr Knaś (Małopolska Institute of Culture),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Discover exhibits in the collection of the Krystyna and Włodzimierz Tomek Natural Science Museum in Ciężkowice:
The European bee-eater
The European roller
Short-toed Eagle
The Albino magpie

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The Albino magpie

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Recent comments

Kacper Bracha
03/01/16 11:25
Witam właśnie zauważyłem tak owy gatunek sroki w naszym ogrodzie w Tropiszowie. Kacper
Mirka Bałazy
04/01/16 11:24
Dziękujemy za wiadomość o sroce albinosce! Pozdrawiamy, Redakcja WMM

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