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New Digital Special Collections Exhibit: Extraordinary Birds

by Stacy J. Schiff on

Library News


The American Museum of Natural History Research Library  is pleased to announce the recent launch of its newest Digital Special Collections exhibit: Extraordinary Birds. 

This online exhibit is based on the book Natural Histories: Extraordinary Birds, Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library, by Paul Sweet, Collections Manager of the Ornithology Department in the Division of Vertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History. The second volume in the Natural Histories series, this volume highlights a selection of the magnificent art contained in the Museum's renowned Rare Book Collection in the field of ornithology.

The wonderfully colorful plates featured in Extraordinary Birds are notable for their profound aesthetic beauty, and for the fine detail which highlights the significant role the art played in the history of ornithology, as well as the skill and time that went into producing each image. This a perfect marriage between the Museum Library's distinguished Rare Book Collection and the Museum's Department of Ornithology, which maintains one of the largest and important collections of bird specimens in the world.

The colorful illustrations capture the birds with a view of their natural habitat, often complete with nests, tree branches, and flowers. In addition to studying the history of ornithology through this artwork, one can also examine print-making techniques, which are further discussed in Extraordinary Birds with three essays by the Museum Library’s Conservator, Barbara Rhodes. The artwork in the featured volumes, says Sweet “…are not only important historical documents, but also serve as the basis of bird taxonomy, or the discipline of naming and classifying birds.”

This Digital Special Collections exhibit allows the viewer to browse images by choosing selected topics from Extraordinary Birds: Birds of the World, with avian examples from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and Oceania, North America, and South America, and followed by Printing Technique with the artists' technique noted for several illustrations.  We invite you to tour the world of birds through this special glimpse into the Museum Library’s Rare Book Collection.

 You can access the Library’s Extraordinary Birds online exhibit by clicking here .