We filmed in the rare book room of the Library Archives today - an episode about John James Audubon, in celebration of his upcoming birthday and in commemoration of his wonderful life full of weird behaviors, tall tales, and fabulous curly locks of golden hair.
Katie and I spent quite a bit of time with our noses hovering near the spines of three-hundred year old books, inhaling the smells of musty pages, worn leather, history, knowledge.
Take the Illinois Central to Field Museum color poster of a Great Anteater with the Field Museum in the background. Take The Illinois Central to the Field Museum advertisement Vol2 PL 48 Plates from Research Design in Nature, a publication by Field Museum Press by John Gilbert Wilkins from the Art Institute of Chicago, circa 1925.
Of course, this Wall isn’t the 700 feet of ice that keeps the wild at bay beyond Westeros’s northern border in Game of Thrones, and I didn’t have to traverse hundreds of war-savaged miles to reach it.
But it’s daunting nonetheless. I’m dwarfed by floor-to-ceiling shelves stretching the width of a large, climate-controlled room. This is George R.R. Martin’s life’s work.
The collection—more than 200 archival boxes, book editions in different languages, replicas of coins and weaponry, card games, letters, portraits, 25-year-old convention invitations—could take a person months, perhaps even years, to carefully sift through. I had just six hours.
Though it isn’t well-known outside science-fiction circles, Texas A&M is something of a mecca for the genre. A student group started AggieCon—the first university-based science-fiction convention of its kind—at the school 46 years ago. Martin attended many times early in his career with fellow authors and friends, and in 1986, the organizers invited him to the convention as a guest of honor. Don Dyal, who was head of special collections, regarded Martin as a luminary. He asked Martin to consider archiving his documents in the university’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection.
Martin sent his first boxes of papers and memorabilia to the collection in 1992. The cache of Martin’s personal documents and early drafts has been something of an open secret as Martin’s status rose to celestial. Now, as millions of fans wait impatiently for the next installment of his A Song of Ice and Fire series and season 5 of the hit HBO show, the secret is out.
Hey! Working in a museum is incredible because every specimen and artifact has a story - including those that ended up on the set for our new show, Natural News from The Field Museum! So we decided to give you a tour. Check it out to learn stuff, also to see me make awkward noises and just be who I am as a person
It’s John James Audubon’s birthday on April 26th, so we decided to celebrate his life and illustrative legacy by focusing on The Field Museum’s Library/Archives, which house a complete set of his infamous work: The Birds of America. Every Tuesday our librarians change a single page in one of the four massive volumes to reveal a new print - out of 435 different images, it will take more than 8 years to repeat a single image.
Audubon was an interesting and often times amusing character from history but there is a certain relatability to his life: he started on this artist pilgrimage when he was 35, he failed publicly and often, was unconventional in his artistry, and at times was quite unpopular - but in the end he left an impact on his world which we still see today, 163 years after his death.
Happy Birthday, J. J. Your gorgeous flowing locks will never be forgotten.