Audubon's Birds of America Exhibit

Dani using iron on Audubon print

In Kelvin Smith Library’s Hatch Reading Room, you will find on display four plates from the collection of John James Audubon's Birds of America. These plates are known for their accuracy, brilliance, and beauty, portraying individual species at life size. We encourage you to come by the reading room to see them Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 4:30 PM through Thursday, August 1

Before the prints were displayed, the library’s preservation department assessed each item and performed necessary repairs to make sure they were in top condition. Fortunately, none of the prints required major treatments. Staff began the process by dry cleaning, or surface cleaning, to remove dust and dirt without solvents. Some items exhibited small missing pieces and tears along the top edges. To repair the imperfections, staff used compatible colored tissue paper and a water-based paste to fill in the missing or damaged parts. The tissue is quickly dried with a tacking iron to prevent tide lines and achieve a finished product. The pictures below show the transformation and the work of Dani Fish, who skillfully uses the tacking iron.

Audubon's Birds of America at CWRU

In December 1936, Elizabeth Bingham Blossom generously donated these exquisite plates from John James Audubon's renowned Birds of America to Case Western Reserve University. In her heartfelt note to President Leutner, she expressed her hope that these works would benefit the University and extended her warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas.

We remain deeply grateful to Elizabeth Bingham Blossom for her generous gift, which enriches our cultural and educational tapestry and continues to inspire curiosity and appreciation for the natural world.

About Audubon's Birds of America

John James Audubon’s Birds of America is a landmark work in ornithological illustration, first published between 1827 and 1838. It is renowned for the life-sized prints that detail nearly 435 species of American birds, making it a treasure trove for both art enthusiasts and bird lovers. The plates on display are celebrated for their meticulous detail and vibrant representation of North American bird species. Audubon's work remains a quintessential blend of artistry and scientific observation, capturing the splendor and diversity of birdlife.

Special Collections in Kelvin Smith Library supports the teaching and research of Case Western Reserve University’s faculty and students and makes its holdings accessible to the local, national and international community of scholars and researchers. If you need assistance searching the collection or making an appointment, please reach out here.