Audubon Day 2024

Viewings of the famed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America (London, 1827-1838) will be hosted by the LSU Libraries on Saturday, April 27, 2024 in the McIlhenny Room of Hill Memorial Library on LSU's campus.

Audubon Day is free and open to the public, but registration is required due to the event’s popularity. Each one-hour viewing of Birds of America is limited to 40 attendees. Registration signups are open for the dates/times below: 

Saturday, April 27: 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Saturday, April 27: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Saturday, April 27: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Saturday, April 27: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

What to expect

During each viewing, the four volumes of Birds of America will be paged through simultaneously. Volumes 1-3 contain 100 plates each, Volume 4 contains 135 plates. Additional reference materials and other bird-related books from the library’s collections will also be on display during the viewing. It is not possible to see every plate in Birds of America during the viewing – but that’s a good reason to return next year! Visitors are welcome to take photographs without flash.

Additional offerings

In addition to the Birds of America viewings, an exhibit of the McIlhenny Natural History Book Collection will be on display and representatives from the LSU Museum of Natural Science will be on hand to answer questions. As other groups are confirmed, we will update the website. 

Parking and Logistics

Free parking is readily accessible in the Indian Mounds lot, directly behind Hill Memorial Library and in the Peabody lot adjacent to the library. The library's street address is 95 Fieldhouse Dr. Baton Rouge, LA. 

To prevent any possible damage to the Birds of America folios during the viewings, we recommend minimizing the personal belongings you bring to the event. Bags, purses, and other bulky items will need to be placed to the side of the room during the viewing or checked in a locker prior to the viewing. Food and drink are not permitted in the McIlhenny Room.

Learn more about Birds of America

A renowned masterpiece of natural history art, Birds of America records the rich bird and plant life Audubon saw and drew first-hand when he lived in Louisiana in the 1820s. The edition is known as the “elephant” folio because of its large size, with each of its 435 pages measuring 39 by 27 inches. Publication took eleven years, from 1827 to 1838. LSU's copy of the Birds of America was purchased with a grant from the Crown Zellerbach Foundation in 1964, and it has been shown in various venues over the years. These books are part of the E.A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection at Hill Memorial Library, one of the most prestigious collections of its kind, with particular strengths in New World botanical and ornithological illustration.

The Birds of America double elephant folio was restored in 2008 through a generous donation by the Coypu Foundation to enable conservation of this important work. Over the course of more than a year, the work was painstakingly completed. LSU Libraries’ copy belonged to one of the original subscribers, the Duke of Northumberland (1785-1847).

Recently John James Audubon has rightly come under increased criticism for his relationship to slavery, Native Americans, as well as his environmental practices. The Audubon Society details much of this on its website. Drew Lanham’s article "What do we do about John James Audubon?" first published in Audubon Magazine in 2021, is also a good resource in this regard, as is Christoph Irmscher’s recent article, "Audubon in this day and age" in Humanities Magazine. Additionally, Special Collections has several books that address these aspects of Audubon’s life, including Irmscher and Richard King’s recent collection Audubon at Sea (2022, see especially Subhankar Banerjee’s foreword and the editors’ coda), and Christopher Ianini’s chapter “The Birds of America and the specter of Caribbean accumulation” in his book Fatal Revolutions (2012). Please contact us (225.578.6568, or if you have any questions or would like to know more. 

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