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New ‘Ding’ studio exhibit unveiled

By Staff | Dec 9, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Acting Refuge Manager Kevin Godsea cuts the ribbon on the new exhibit with help from “Ding” Darling reprisor Tom Milligan, center, and the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce team.

As the official kickoff to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s 75th anniversary season, the refuge hosted a public unveiling of an exhibit makeover and new mural dedicated to the historic achievements of the its namesake – Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling.

The unveiling took place on Dec. 2 in the refuge’s Visitor & Education Center.

Darling twice won Pulitzer prizes for the political cartoons he penned over 50 years, a great deal of them conservation-related. The updated “Ding” Studio Exhibit recreates his workplace at the Des Moines Register, which carried his cartoons on its front page daily.

Whereas before the exhibit was cordoned off, now visitors can enter and become part of the life of “Ding.” Added enhancements, made possible with “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge funding, include a “Ding” selfie station, an electronic timeline of his life, interactive replications of his drafting table and desk, and never-before-exhibited artifacts from the collection of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

Visitors can still see examples of his cartoons, a video and the long-barreled swivel gun he received in gratitude for his help in prosecuting hunters who used such weapons to hunt birds and waterfowl.

PHOTO PROVIDED One new interactive element gives visitors a chance to flip through front pages of the Des Moines Register that carried some of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling's most famous cartoons.

Among his many other accomplishments, Darling created the Federal Duck Stamp program in 1934 to support the purchase of wetland habitat. To date, it has preserved over 5.7 million acres as national wildlife refuge lands. To pay tribute to that legacy, a new 127-by-98 mural revolves around an amplification of the first 1935 Duck Stamp, which Darling designed. Three-dimensional mallards appear to be fly out of the stamp. David Williams, of North Carolina, designed and created the mural.

“We continuously want to tell the story of ‘Ding’ the man, because he is a legend in conservation and conservation art history,” Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, who oversaw the exhibit makeover with DDWS Development Officer Sierra Hoisington, said. “So as we celebrate 75 years of what he started here by creating this refuge in 1945, it only seemed fitting to begin by shining a spotlight on him and his groundbreaking work.”

PHOTO PROVIDED Supervisory Ranger Toni Westland and “Ding” Darling reprisor Tom Milligan snap a selfie before the unveiling of the new exhibit.