Rare books at LSU are continually inspiring students’ creativity and enriching our community in new and interesting ways. Students in a course on Interior Design Graphics, taught by LSU College of Art & Design instructors Lee Kean and John Campbell, recently visited Special Collections in search of inspiration for their final project. The book they came to see is one of the library’s best-known treasures, the elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America.
Kean and Campbell’s students will be designing bird houses for the LSU bird refuge at University Lake as part of the Baton Rouge Lakes improvement project. “The existing houses have been identified as insufficient for the variety of waterfowl that exist in or migrate into South Louisiana,” the instructors commented. “Due to the site’s close proximity to the president’s residence, LSU would like these structures to reflect the creative, innovative thinking that is present within the university.”
Treating birds as clients, the students will explore Audubon’s illustrations and look for ideas about how to accommodate their clients’ needs. The project will be an opportunity to learn how “pattern can be used as a starting point for design.” The rich colors found in the Birds of America will also guide the students’ thinking as they develop sketches and a final three-dimensional model.
“This class was a terrific example of how archival materials can be used in non-traditional ways,” said Michael Taylor, Curator of Books. “For design students in particular, Special Collections is a great place to develop strong visual literacy skills and get a head start on the kinds of things students will be doing in their future careers.”
Taylor and colleague John Miles (Special Collections Professional in Residence) discussed Audubon’s story while the students viewed his work. Printed in England between 1827 and 1838 and originally issued in parts to subscribers, LSU’s copy of the Birds of America is now bound in four large volumes and is one of just four complete copies held by Southern universities. Its original owner was the Duke of Northumberland (1785-1847), a patron of science, whose home, Alnwick Castle, appeared in the Harry Potter movies as Hogwarts School.
To discuss how you can make Special Collections materials part of your teaching or research, please feel free to contact the library.