Before Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830–1904) began systematically studying animal locomotion with his camera in 1877, understanding of how horses and other animals moved at faster gaits was tenuous at best. The series of photographs Muybridge produced allowed sporting artists to more accurately portray their subjects.

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904), Horse and Rider, 1878, c. 1890 collotype, 19 x 24 1/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr. Photography Collection

Muybridge also explored ways to portray motion by combining photographs of different stages of action and displaying them together. He came up with a device known as a “zoöpraxiscope” in 1879. The zoöpraxiscope featured a disc with several images painted on to it, showing different stages of motion. A projector light was shone through the disc, and the shadows cast on the wall by the images as the disc was spun seemed to bring the pictures to life.

Eadweard Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope and disc Zoopraxiscope [CC BY-SA 4.0 (

W.E. Lincoln’s U.S. Patent No. 64,117 of Apr. 23, 1867, W.E. Lincoln [Public domain]

The zoöpraxiscope was difficult to produce, so another moving picture device called a “zoetrope” was more popular. This is a cylindrical device with images printed on the inside. When the device is spun and viewed through the slats, or “apertures,” the pictures form the moving image. Your eyes can’t perceive each picture fast enough to see them individually, but the “blanks” interspersed in between tell your brain that each picture is separate. Your brain and your eyes compromise and put together a moving picture that satisfies both. This is called the “Phi phenomenon,” and it only works if you view each image for less than 1/10th of a second. Any slower, and your eyes would be able to perceive each picture separately. Modern movies and videos work in a very similar manner; a series of images, called “frames,” cycle through the screen at around 60 frames per second. Some higher quality displays can display 300 frames per second!

NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art, on view through September 15, 2019, features a zoetrope building station, but you can make one at home too! Download the pattern and instructions to make a zoetrope of a galloping racehorse.

Instagram post from April 27, 2019 Family Day showing a completed zoetrope

Be sure to stop by the museum and visit NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art to learn more about motion and zoetropes, as well as ecology, weather, chemistry, and color theory. There are lots more zoetropes to try, including one with Muybridge’s Gentleman Jumping!

Cynthia Kurtz is the Spring 2019 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Museum and Library. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a degree in Classical Literature in 2016. When not at the museum she can likely be found with her beloved horse Splash.

Coming from a non-sporting background I’ve learned a great deal about sporting topics since I joined NSLM three years ago.  One of my favorite discoveries is an American game bird, Scolopax minor, or the American Woodcock.  This bizarre bird also goes by a large number of colloquial names such as the Timberdoodle, the Whistledoodle, the Labrador twister, the Bogsucker, the Mudsnipe, and the Hokumpoke, just to name a few.

Photo: Fyn Kynd/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The timberdoodle is a small bird with a well-camouflaged chunky body, a short neck and tail, and a very long, narrow, bill that ends in a prehensile tip.  This mobile tip allows it to find and grasp earthworms, the woodcock’s preferred food, as it probes underground with its bill.  The ears are positioned ahead of its eyes, between the eye socket and the base of its bill.  Its large eyes are located high and far back on its head giving it one of the broadest fields of vision of any vertebrate.   In order to provide space for this configuration, the woodcock’s brain is essentially upside down.  Its cerebellum is found under the rest of the brain, just above its spine, rather than in the usual position in the rear of the brain case.  No other bird sports this configuration.

Besides being odd looking the timberdoodle is also oddly behaved.  They have a very distinctive walk that resembles the inverse of a pigeon’s.  They step forward heavily with the front foot and rock their body back and forth while keeping their head still.  It is speculated that this disturbs worms in the ground allowing the woodcock to target them.  Regardless of function it is quite entertaining to watch.  Their vocalizations are also unusual.  The most common sound is described as a “peent,” and more closely resembles the call of an insect than of a bird.

Woodcocks eat their weight daily in earthworms and other invertebrates.  This diet requires moist ground and woodcock cover usually consists of young, dense forest with  plenty of damp, brambly, and brushy areas.  They drink a lot of water and rather than tilting the head back in the fashion of other birds, the timberdoodle uses its bill like a straw and sucks up a drink.

woodcock 5
Woodcock range map by Lang Elliott.

The range of the American woodcock covers the eastern half of North America from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  They breed in the north and migrate south for the winter.  They are crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk, and migrate by night.

In breeding season males sing and perform aerial displays to attract females.  Females brood and raise the chicks, usually four, alone.  Her nest is a simple hollow on the ground.

Woodcock eggs.  From the Missouri Department of Conservation

After 21 days of brooding the eggs split longitudinally and chicks, which are able to travel within just a few hours, emerge.  The chicks are born with nearly adult sized feet and their bills start out at 15 mm and grow 2 mm a day.  They will begin probing for worms after two days, are nearly full grown and flying in less than a month, and the family breaks up at 6 to 8 weeks.

Hen and chicks.  From Linda Rockwell’s Photo Feathers blog.

The enemies of the woodcock include domestic dogs and cats, foxes, and various raptors.  Their eggs are sought after by opossums, raccoons, skunks, and snakes.  In order to lure a predator away from her nest, the hen will create a distraction by faking a broken wing some distance from the nest and then breaking into flight at the last second as the predator attacks.  There have also been rare but persistent reports of woodcock hens flying out of harms way with their chicks clutched between their thighs.  Most modern authorities are skeptical of this behavior but the tales of witnesses continue to come in.

The American woodcock is a game bird whose hunting is regulated to a short period of time and a low bag limit.  The hunting can be challenging due not only to the woodcock’s preferred environment but also to its sometimes stubborn refusal to flush from cover.  One author I read said that he had to practically kick the bird out of cover.  Due to this predisposition to freeze in place and to it’s excellent camouflage, it is best to use a good bird dog, a pointer, retriever, or setter, to flush the birds from their cover. 

Two hunters and their dog in classic woodcock terrain.  From Living Water Guide

Finding them is not the only challenge.  Once flushed, they burst from practically underfoot in heavy cover and then fly rather erratically, zigging and zagging or suddenly dropping back to the earth.  Getting a good shot off is not easy.  If a hunter manages to bag a woodcock or two the birds make a dinner that is either adored or hated, there is no middle ground.  They are said to have a liver-like flavor.

The Library has numerous books about woodcocks and woodcock hunting.  In addition, the woodcock has been featured frequently in sporting art.  In fact, the Library’s annual auction this year (May 29-June 5) has two woodcock etchings.  The first is by Roland Clark (1943)…

roland clark

and the second is by William Schaldach (1940).


For more information about this unusual bird drop by the Library and I’d be pleased to share our books about the Timberdoodle with you.  Or read more about them at the various sites I’ve linked to in this week’s blog.

SONY DSCErica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

As a student in George Washington University’s Museum Studies program, I am required to complete a 260-hr internship at a museum as part of my curriculum. Given my passion for horses and dogs and the ways they serve us, the National Sporting Library & Museum was the perfect opportunity for me to combine my interests with my education. Fortunately, they also offer a robust internship program and were more than willing to work with my GWU advisor and me to put together a program of study and work.

Photographing the newly conserved Four-paneled Sporting Screen for the exhibition, Deconstructed: The NSLM Sporting Screen.
Front and back of: (after) Thomas Butler (English, c. 1730-1760)
Four-paneled Sporting Screen , c. 1860
hand-colored engravings and oils on canvas on a wooden frame
81 1/2 x 108 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006, photography Cynthia Kurtz

At the time of writing, I have completed 210 of those hours, and my time at the NSLM is winding to a close. I am sad to leave this place; I love the collections, the mission, and the people who make it all happen. But I am also excited to see what I can do next with all the skills and knowledge I have acquired over the past three months!

Before I started my internship, I had never actually handled artwork of any sort besides my own. There are extensive protocols and rules when it comes to handling different types of artwork and frames; for instance, it is usually necessary to wear gloves to protect the work. Sometimes, however, it is safer not to wear them for increased tactile feedback, for example when handling works on paper. There is also a lot of work that goes into keeping the works in tip-top shape while on display: every week I went through the entire museum and cleaned all the frames and sculptures with special brushes.

George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator Claudia Pfeiffer holds a box for me while packing On Fly in the Salt: American Saltwater Fly Fishing from the Surf to the Flats, a traveling exhibition that was on loan from the American Museum of Fly Fishing

I also learned more about forming a solid collection plan, processing acquisitions, and keeping strong records of items in the collections. I compiled research for some current exhibitions (see my upcoming post on zoetropes, which I worked on for NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art!) and some for shows that will not be on display for several years. The ability to work on such a variety of programs in different stages of development meant that I got a taste of the entire process of curating a museum exhibition, start to finish.

In short, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities NSLM has given me this semester and have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. I wish the best of luck to the next intern, and I eagerly await the next chapter of my own career.

Cynthia Kurtz is the Spring 2019 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Museum and Library. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a degree in Classical Literature in 2016. When not at the museum she can likely be found with her beloved horse Splash.

We have over 1,300 objects in the museum collection at the National Sporting Library & Museum.  Those objects can be broken down into three categories of collections: permanent, study, and loan collections.  Regardless of which collection an object belongs to, the motto is the same: we treat all objects with the same care and attention.

The objects in the permanent collection have been donated or bequeathed to the NSLM or purchased by the NSLM.  An example of this would be The Start of the Derby (1845) by John Herring Sr. (English, 1795-1865), generously bequeathed to the museum in 2017.  This is a wonderful painting by a popular British sporting artist and represents an ordinary moment in a unique style and tradition all his own.  The Start of the Derby will be part of the upcoming NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art exhibition, opening Friday, April 12.

John Frederick Herring, Sr (English, 1795-1865) The Start of the Derby, 1845
oil on canvas, 28 x 48 inches, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017

The study collection is comprised of objects that are primarily used for research purposes.  For instance, in NSLMology, we are including a bronze of a Mare and Foal, which visitors will be encouraged to touch.  Wait. Why is this allowed when every sign in the museum says Do Not Touch?  Because in this instance, the bronze is a 20th-century casting.  This does not make it less valuable, it is simply a later model, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with it.

Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879), Jument Arabe et son Paulain (An Arab Mare and Foal),
model 1850; cast early 20th century, bronze with detached wooden base, 12 x 19 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Atkinson, 2014

Our last collection is our loan collection.  In addition to the rare private lender, institutions frequently loan to and from one another and we are no exception.  Two popular bronze sculptures on display are from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond: Pointer Guarding Dead Game (1850) and Setter, Pointer, & Partridge (1848) by Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879). 

Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879), Setter, Pointer, and Partridge, 1850, bronze, 9 x 16 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Forrest E. Mars, 69.29.2

Since we want to make sure different works of art are seen, and to allow the art to rest, we frequently rotate art from the different collections between being on-view and in storage. 

To keep track of our different collections, each one has a different numbering system.  Using the above objects as examples, the accession number for The Start of the Derby is 2017.3.1.  This means the painting was acquired in 2017.  It was the third acquisition that year, and it was the first object of that bequest.  We also received several other paintings within the bequest, therefore, those additional works received the subsequent numbers: 2017.3.2, 2017.3.3, etc. 

The objects in the study collection have an “S” in front of their number.  The accession number for Mare and Foal is S2014.13.1.  It was the thirteenth study object received in 2014 and the only object in that donation. Likewise, the VMFA bronzes on loan are numbered L2007.31.5-6.

This is by no means a universal numbering system.  Each museum is different.  Larger institutions may have different numbering systems within different departments.  Each work of art has a tag so we can track it whenever it is moved around the museum.  The accession number on the art corresponds to our digital cataloging system that records any location moves and stores all pertinent information relating to that specific object. That, though, is a post for another day…

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at

When we visit a museum and admire the great works hanging there, it is easy to imagine the masterful artists sitting down and creating each piece in one swift movement, merely putting brush to canvas and bringing to life yet another masterpiece. In actuality, the process of creating art is a long and arduous one, and the work hanging in the gallery is seldom the first iteration.

As part of my internship, I have been working with a collection of watercolors by Cuthbert Bradley, an early 20th century artist and writer who lived and worked in England. Born in 1861, he was the son of the Rev. Edward Bradley, also a well-known writer and artist. Cuthbert Bradley first worked as an architect, but upon moving to the countryside with his wife engaged more with his love of sporting pursuits, becoming a journalist for The Field and hunting regularly with various packs. As an artist, he was entirely self-taught and showed a penchant for depicting hounds.

The collection of watercolors I have been working with offers a unique opportunity to explore the artist’s process. They are primarily studies, possibly made in preparation for a later, more finished, work and feature handwritten notes describing who is in the painting, what is happening, and even details such as the date, the location of the kill, and the time the hunt lasted. In a few instances even the horses and dogs are named. One painting, The Earl and Countess of Lonsdale Arriving at Barleythorpe, 1893, is specifically labeled by Bradley as being a study for a painting he would later present to Lord Lonsdale. By completing a study, the artist can “map” a painting and decide on composition before committing to a final piece. It also allowed the quick capture of a moment outdoors in the days before cameras were portable or even commonplace, perfect for documenting a fast-paced hunt. Because it will not be a final work, the artist is free to leave imperfections or paint over them loosely, as evidenced in this detail from Viewing a Fox Away, 1917.

Cuthbert Bradley (English, 1861-1943), Viewing a Fox Away, 1917, watercolor on paper, 10 ¼ x 14 ½ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999.
Detail of Viewing a Fox Away, 1917. The ghost of the previous position of the horizontal directionals, visible one inch below those in the final version, shows how Bradley adjusted his composition as he worked.

A painting’s reverse can also be a fascinating source of information about the artist and his work. As these works are not framed, I am able to view the backs and learn quite a bit more from what I find there. On the back of Mr Henry Spencer Hunting the Blankney Hounds, 1920, the artist left extensive notes, a list of dogs’ names, a sketch of a galloping horse and rider, and a message stating “Please Return to Cuthbert Bradley, Folkingham, Lincolnshire,” all haphazardly strewn about the paper. Several other pieces are mounted on mats that have seemingly been reused, as the backs have handwritten captions for paintings that are no longer attached and are not in our collection. A fascinating example is Stirrup Cup: Lord Lonsdale. Master of the Cottesmore, 1915-21., 1921, on the back of which another painting remains, though it has been cut. A large “X” is drawn through one of the horses clearing the fence. It is hard to say whether Bradley suffered a falling out with the subject of this painting, decided to go in a different direction with the study, or merely completed the work and wanted to recycle his materials for newer pieces. Regardless, it is an excellent example of how the front of a work seldom tells the entire story.

Cuthbert Bradley (English, 1861-1943), Reverse of Mr Henry Spencer Hunting the Blankney Hounds, 1920, watercolor on paper, 9 ¾ x 13 ½ inches.
National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999. (Image enhanced for clarity)

As a museum, it is our responsibility to not only show works of art but to interpret them. The watercolors of Cuthbert Bradley are a profound example of how important it is to consider not just the visible portion of the painting but the entire work. What’s hidden behind the frame can tell us a great deal about the artist and their artistic process.

Reverse of Stirrup Cup: Lord Lonsdale. Master of the Cottesmore 1915-21., 1921, Cuthbert Bradley (English, 1861-1943) watercolor on paper, 9 ¾ x 12 inches.
National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999.

If you would like to learn more about Cuthbert Bradley and the hunts he frequented, the library has copies of his books Good Sport Seen with some Famous Packs 1885-1910 and Fox-hunting from Shire to Shire in both the Main Reading Room and the Rare Book Room.

Cynthia Kurtz is the Spring 2019 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Museum and Library. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a degree in Classical Literature in 2016. When not at the museum she can likely be found with her beloved horse Splash.