Apples, Birds and Taxidermy: Happy Birthday, Tadas Ivanauskas!
Here are some interesting facts about the Lithuanian Indiana Jones who would have turned 136 this December.
Tadas Ivanauskas is a name that rings a bell for those interested in fauna and taxidermy, as the Kaunas Zoological Museum is named after him. The prominent Lithuanian zoologist and biologist, sometimes even called the Lithuanian Indiana Jones, established the museum back in 1919. As the centennial anniversary of the institution is approaching (July 15, 2019, it is!), and December 16 is actually the birthday of Ivanauskas, we’ve decided to put together some interesting facts about this legendary pioneer of many things.
What's not to love? Picture from the archives of Kaunas T. Ivanauskas Zoological Museum
- Tadas Ivanauskas was born on December 16, 1882, in Lebiodka, currently part of Belarus. His father Leonardas was an engineer and a translator for Dmitri Mendeleev, the creator of the periodic table of elements. The father was into taxidermy – some of the birds he stuffed were later donated to the zoological museum.
- Ivanauskas only learned Lithuanian when studying at the natural sciences department of the Saint Petersburg University (enrolled in 1903), where he met and befriended Lithuanian students.
After graduating from the university (he also spent a few years in Sorbonne, Paris), in 1910, Ivanauskas established a taxidermy workshop and started working in the Ministry of Agriculture.
- Encouraged by his wife Honorata Paškauskaitė (she was born into a Polish family but chose to be a Lithuanian), Ivanauskas opened a Lithuanian school in a small village. When the land became part of Poland, the family moved to Kaunas in 1919 and lived here until his death in 1970. A memorial plaque can be seen on the house on V. Putvinskio g. 33 where he moved in 1952.
- Ivanauskas, a patriot of the newly established state of Lithuania, was one of the founders of Lithuanian Riflemen's’ Union, an important non-governmental organisation (here’s a story about its founder Vladas Putvinskis). This affiliation – Honorata was also active in the union – was a threat to the family when Lithuania was later occupied by the Soviets, but Ivanauskai were not displaced, due to the professor’s valuable academic work. The couple sent many parcels with food and clothes to those displaced into Siberia. Ivanauskas did not sympathise the Soviet government – it’s said that, during his lectures in the university, he used to tell his students ‘the Russians gave to the world communism, vodka and sexually transmitted diseases’.
Ivanauskas, a rifleman, also established the Society of Correct Hunting and Fishing
- In 1919, Ivanauskas and his colleagues established the Nature Research Centre and Zoological Museum. Most of the exhibits in the museum were – and still are – made and presented by the professor himself. He enrolled in various expeditions into exotic countries, which certainly helped to boost the collection of the museum.
Ivanauskas and his colleagues in Brazil. Pictures from the archives of Kaunas T. Ivanauskas Zoological Museum.
- Ivanauskas and his wife started the traditions of communally planting new trees and raising nesting-boxes for birds as early as 1920. During the tree planting festivities, the pine groves if Lampėdžiai, Panemunė, and Petrašiūnai were born, accompanied by the music live brass orchestra.
- Even though he visited many foreign countries, the professor loved exploring Lithuania. He’d do that with this close friend Antanas Žmuidzinavičius (the founder of the Devils’ Museum!). Once, they bought a boat and sailed down the Merkys river. Žmuidzinavičius painted, while Ivanauskas took detailed notes which he later published. Stories like that inspired many Lithuanians to become interested in their own homeland and its nature.
- In 1929, Ivanauskas opened one of the first bird banding stations in Europe at Cape Ventė, Curonian Lagoon. Today, the renovated station welcomes visitors, and it’s possible to volunteer there.
- Ivanauskas with his colleagues also founded the Kaunas botanical garden in 1923, Žuvintas reserve in 1937, and the Kaunas Zoo (today Lithuanian Zoo) in 1938. He also helped to establish the Lithuanian University in 1920. He, of course, was beloved by generations of students.
A class of ornithologists in 1928. Picture from the archives of Kaunas T. Ivanauskas Zoological Museum
- Six months after his death in 1970, the zoological museum got the professor’s name. Sculptor Stasys Žirgulis created his memorial bust; you can also visit a memorial cabinet in the museum.
- In 1973, the family’s adopted daughter Eleonora Baltuškevičienė opened a memorial museum in the Ivanauskas’ summer cottage where the professor spent most of his summers. Baltuškevičienė died in 2018, but her husband Algirdas and their two sons still take care of the family legacy and make sure Obelynė is open for the society. In Obelynė, you can visit the family house and take a walk in the impressive park full of exotic trees, as well as apple trees bred by Ivanauskas.
This is one of our favourite photos! Professor and the deer met in 1950. Picture from the archives of Kaunas T. Ivanauskas Zoological Museum
- T. Ivanausko street, named after him in 1992, is in the Freda neighbourhood, a stone’s throw from the Kaunas Botanical Garden. There’s one more street named after the professor in Ringaudai, Kaunas district, not far from his cottage. A high school in Šilainiai, Kaunas, was renamed to T. Ivanausko School in 2009.