Archive for January, 2010

Birds of a Feather

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

On Saturday, January 23, 2010, some 150 visitors happily flocked together to welcome home the elephant folio first edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. The viewing celebrated the successful completion of more than a year of painstaking conservation work to restore and preserve this treasure, funded by a major grant from the Coypu Foundation.

Curator Elaine Smyth answers questions while visitors view volume three

Curator Elaine Smyth answers questions while visitors view volume three

The Libraries held the last Audubon Day in 2007, when it was determined that the four volumes could no longer be shown safely due to structural damage to the bindings and other problems with individual plates. In 2008, the Coypu Foundation made a donation of $99,000 to enable conservation of this work by Etherington Conservation Services. The work was completed and the final volume returned to the library of December 28, 2009. Both visitors and staff thoroughly enjoyed the “welcome home” event!

Visitors look on while staff member Christina Riquelmy turns the pages of volume one.  Volumes two, three, and four are being shown in the background.

Visitors look on while staff member Christina Riquelmy turns the pages of volume one. Volumes two, three, and four are being shown in the background.


Staff member Sarah Ferstel (right) pauses so that visitors can admire the white pelican depicted in volume 4.

Staff member Sarah Ferstel (right) pauses so that visitors can admire the white pelican depicted in volume 4.


Danny Heitman, author of A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House (LSU Press, 2008), visits with staff member Anne Smith, between book signings.

Danny Heitman, author of A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House (LSU Press, 2008), visits with staff member Anne Smith, between book signings.

New Special Collections Web site

Monday, January 25th, 2010

On Tuesday, January 26, 2010, the LSU Libraries will begin rolling out a new, improved Special Collections website, thanks to the hard, smart work of Angela VandenBroek, Sigrid Kelsey, and Gina Costello, assisted by many other staff members. We hope our users will like new look and new organization!

At present most of the content is the same, with some additions thanks to various staff members. We will continue updating, adding to, and improving the content over the next several months.

If you have pages bookmarked from the old site you may get 404 (page not found) messages, because many of the pages have been rearranged and renamed. But the content you are looking for is still there, and we hope in a logical place (at least, that’s what we intended to do!).

Other changes coming soon:

  • The subject guides for manuscripts will soon be in a database, with nifty searching features.
  • More databases will be online – a searchable database for the Senator Breaux’s papers, for example, and in due course a searchable database for the Gandy photograph collection, and an improved database for the Louisiana Newspaper Webindex.
  • More finding aids will be online – they’re being added weekly, as they are reformatted (sometimes from documents typed on a manual typewriter!).
  • We’ll have a new online introduction to using Special Collections.

If you discover any glaring glitches or want to suggest additional content, please send a note to Elaine Smyth, Head of Special Collections.

Occult Science & Philosophy in the Renaissance

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

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Grand Rosicrucian Alchemical Formula, 1678

Since the first book in the series was published in 1997, millions of readers around the world have been captivated by J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.  A new exhibition at LSU’s Hill Memorial Library (Special Collections), explores the real-life history that inspired Rowling. Occult Science & Philosophy of the Renaissance will be on display in the library’s lecture hall from Jan. 25 through Mar. 6.      

Visitors will be able to view original copies of books printed as early as 1536. Highlights include a 17th-century edition of the works of Geber, the medieval Persian alchemist who is thought to have initiated the search for the “philosopher’s stone.” Other works related to alchemy include Sir Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum and a book published in 1662 by Isaac Newton’s colleague Robert Boyle, who, like Newton, secretly practiced alchemy. William Lilly’s Monarchy or No Monarchy in England introduces visitors to Renaissance astrology and prophecy. Other books explore monsters and magical creatures. A book by Joseph Glanvill, intended to be a “scientific” case history of ghosts and witches, influenced the Puritan minister Cotton Mather, whose Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) was written to justify the Salem witch trials.

A book by the Italian scientist Giambattista della Porta will be of interest to nature lovers. Della Porta’s ideas about plants and astrology were so strange that his books were temporarily banned by the Catholic Inquisition. The Swiss zoologist Konrad Gesner’s Historiae Animalium, published in 1551, contains large woodcuts of various animals, including a unicorn, which was thought to have medicinal value. Two items on display even explore the relationship between Louisiana, pelicans, and a 17th-century secret society called the Order of the Rose Cross.

Special Collections is open Mon.- Fri. from 9-5, Tues. 9-8, and Sat. 9-1. For more information, contact Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books, at (225) 578-6547. This exhibition is being produced in conjunction with a traveling exhibition, Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine, sponsored by the National Library of Medicine and on display at LSU’s Middleton Library, also from Jan. 24 to Mar. 6. For information on that exhibit, contact Peggy Chalaron, Education Resources Librarian, at (225) 578-2349.

Audubon Day

Friday, January 15th, 2010

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Indigo Bunting by John James Audubon

The LSU Libraries will host a viewing of the famed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America (London, 1827-1838). The viewing will be held in the McIlhenny Room of Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus, on Saturday, January 23, from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m.

Audubon Day is free and the public is invited, but reservations are required. Viewings of the folio volumes are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 noon, and 1 p.m. Only 40 people per hour will be admitted.  To request a reservation, please click here or call 225-578-6544 during business hours.

Visitors will also be able to view the recently premiered LPB documentary, “A Summer of Birds” in the Hill Lecture Hall. Copies of Danny Heitman’s book of the same name and the DVDs of the documentary will be on sale. Danny Heitman will be on hand to autograph books from 10 till noon.

For the full press release, click here.


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