Image: Henry Walter Bates mobbed by curl-crested aracaris, not amused by one of their tribe being shot – a vivid image of the collecting naturalist as a “solitary stranger on a strange errand” (from The Naturalist on the River Amazons).
Upon his arrival in the Caribbean in 1542, Christopher Columbus noted: “The singing of little birds is such that it would seem that man would never wish to leave here; and the flocks of parrots obscured the sun; and big and little birds of all sorts, are so different from ours that it is marvelous.”
Tales of discovery, along with the exquisite art produced to disseminate information about the natural world, are now available online in the exhibition AVES: A Survey of the Literature of Neotropical Ornithology. Viewers may access biographies of scientists and explorers, and four centuries of bird illustrations through the following address: http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/aves.
The online exhibition AVES: A Survey of the Literature of Neotropical Ornithology was adapted from the an exhibition and accompanying catalogue of the same title, which was written by antiquarian book dealer Tom Taylor, with contributions by Michael L. Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books at LSU Libraries Special Collections, and published by LSU Libraries in 2011. All text on the online exhibition reflects text printed in the catalogue. The physical exhibit hung May 23 to September 12, 2011.
The exhibit focuses on telling the “untold” stories of scientific explorers who discovered and named thousands of new bird species in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South and Central America, and shared their findings in the beautifully illustrated and important books featured.
The online presentation includes engaging and colorful images of birds and their habitats, taken from the books, interpretive text for each of the works, and brief biographies of more than forty naturalists and bird collectors, ranging from giants such as Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt to virtually unknown figures like Emilie Snethlage, one of the first women to pursue ornithology as a profession.
Most materials featured in the exhibition are housed in the E. A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection in LSU Libraries Special Collections at Hill Memorial Library. The original 2011 exhibition installation and catalogue were funded with a generous grant by the Coypu Foundation.