New Labels for an Old Book: Audubon’s Birds of America

February 20, 2023

The Special Collections Research Center is pleased to announce the installation of new labels contextualizing John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, which is on display in the newly-renamed Hatcher Gallery Exhibit Room.

The Birds of America holds a special place in University history, as the first book purchased for the library by the board of regents in 1838. It has been on semi-permanent display in the Hatcher Graduate Library since 2009, with pages turned each week to offer a rotating display of North America’s avian wildlife.

However, just as national organizations such as the Audubon Society, have begun to reckon with long-overlooked facts of Audubon’s life as an enslaver and vocal opponent of abolition, so too has the University Library. The new labels, written by librarians Marieka Kaye, Juli McLoone, and Caitlin Pollock, and U-M history professor Jason Young, provide a deeper and broader history of both Audubon himself and The Birds of America. We invite you to read an online version of these new labels.

Blue heron (large but skinny bird with long legs and a long, pointy beak) in front of a detailed landscape of flatish wetlands
Blue Crane, or Heron, Ardea Cœrulea. (Plate CCCVII). The Birds of America; From Original Drawings by John James Audubon.