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May 28, 2020

Flightless but Cultured: Penguins Visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

As the world collectively stays at home, one thing a lot of people are missing is visiting cultural sites: from theatres and monuments to museums and galleries.

Thankfully, cultural institutions are stepping up their online presence, something we at Casper Magazine have never been more grateful for than when we heard about three penguins who visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

With the city’s zoo also restricted for the time being, director Randy Wisthoff explains that the animals – who are very accustomed to thousands of visitors daily – miss the interactions they usually enjoy with people. The zoo is always looking for ways to keep the animals stimulated, so once museum director Julián Zugazagoitia joked that they should bring some penguins to the museum, they were immediately on board. While the birds were restricted to the Baroque and Impressionist exhibits, for their own safety and the safety of the artworks, the space was plenty big enough for the three to wander around with their carers keeping a watchful eye.


To Zugazagoitia’s surprise, the penguins weren’t very interested in Monet’s famous Water Lilies, the soothing nature of which he thought would attract them. They appeared to feel more at home in the Baroque exhibit, where they ‘seemed to spend more time’ and ‘look more intently’. The director speculates that the warmth of the room and the depictions of humans could have drawn them in, reminding them of their visitors at the zoo – ‘or maybe they just like the Old Masters more.’ While the idea that penguins have a preferential taste for the Baroque style is both funny and adorable, Zugazagoitia describes the birds as acting surprisingly similar to the museum’s human visitors. They ‘wander[ed] around the rooms’, looking ‘a little here and a little there’, showing an attention span on par with the average museum-goer – perhaps we have more in common with penguins than we thought.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum uploaded a video of the zoological visit to YouTube, showing not only the incredibly cute patrons of the arts but also two very delighted directors. Such a novel idea is the perfect mix of fun and interesting, a situation well-suited to bring a smile to anyone’s face. We at Casper & Casper adore this phenomenon, and we encourage everyone to go see the video – you won’t regret it!

To learn more about the Nelson-Atkins Museum and the Kansas City Zoo, visit their websites here and here.

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