Capturing Bird Imagery Across Collections

Roel Muñoz - Library Digital Imaging Manager, Princeton University Library.

Lauren Bell, Jennifer Cabral-Pierce, Richel Diaz, Ashley Gamarello, Muhanad Gorgees, Beth Haas, Will Harris, Mary Marrero and Squirrel Walsh - Digital Imaging Studio Team, Princeton University Library.

Located at Firestone Library, the Digital Imaging Studio executes digitization projects to support teaching and research across Princeton University and around the world. With this online exhibition, the Imaging Studio team utilized their perspective and hands-on access to multidisciplinary digital content to decide on a single theme for the selection of images. A multicultural perspective on the symbolism and imagery of birds emerged, creating unexpected collection intersections.

All Items

Preparatory drawing (shita-e) of cranes, various floral motifs, and hiro artist seal. (Gillett Griffin Gift GA 2008.01191) Princeton University Library Treasures of Graphic Arts Collection, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library. See detailed image.

This sort of "bird watching" became not only an interesting overview of the variety of materials digitized over the years by the Digital Imaging Studio team as ongoing contributors to PUL’s digital repository, but a testament to the richness of PUL holdings and the dedication of its curators and stakeholders to spark access to such content.

Tetradrachm, Owl standing, wings closed, olive on stalk between two leaves, waning moon and bust of Athena; Princeton University Library Collection of Numismatics, (13895), Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Personal papers, such as the intricate notes describing Charles Rogers' life in nature, are some of the most compelling materials to photograph. Similarly to when digitizing the Shakespeare and Co. project, Toni Morrison Papers, Derrida’s Margins and T.S. Eliot Letters to Emily Hale, members of the Imaging Studio were once again moved by the collection they photographed.

Beloved went to look, pausing to watch a cardinal hop from limb to branch. She followed the blood spot shifting in the leaves until she lost it and even then she walked on, backward, still hungry for another glimpse.

Toni Morrison, Beloved

A Heron Feather, from Bewick, Thomas, et al. A History of British Birds, Vol. 2, (1847). Princeton University Library Rare Book Collection, NE642.B4 A36, Rare Book Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library. See detailed image.

Inadvertently, this pictorial journal of bird imagery also became a metaphor on the relevance of interdisciplinary collection practices and the potential of institutional repositories as portals of representation, identity, and inclusion. Multi-cultural representation and appropriation of bird imagery became an interesting exploration of the potential to construct narratives and identity within a digital repository.

Portrait of a man selling chickens, (ca. 1880); Princeton University Library Collection of Western Americana Photographs, WC064, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library. See detailed image.

Over the years, bird watching has become an active participation and engaged discipline in environmental practices. May this virtual bird watching throughout collections invite not a passive gaze but a cross-departmental involvement and commitment in scholarly communities to assign meaning and add contextualization to existing content in the digital repositories they are creating.

- The Digital Imaging Studio Team, Princeton University Library.

Lauren Bell
Jennifer Cabral-Pierce
Richel Diaz
Ashley Gamarello
Muhanad Gorgees
Beth Haas
Will Harris
Mary Marrero
Squirrel Walsh
Roel Muñoz, Digital Imaging Manager