Maryland State Law Library Opens New Special Collections Room
to House Historical Treasures
Vibrant Audubon bird prints – including Oriole and Raven – return after restoration
(Annapolis, MD — September 18, 2006) When the Maryland State Law Library opens its new Special Collections Room September 21, the long treasured and newly restored Audubon bird prints will have a new home. The expanded and enhanced room, which houses rare books, documents, and articles collected since the library’s founding in 1827, was built to preserve the room’s wealth of American and Maryland history.
The Special Collections Room’s star is its 1830s edition of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” one of fewer than 100 in existence today. The library acquired the four-volume set in 1834 in its largest, ‘double-elephant folio’ size format. Similar collections have been sold at auction for millions of dollars.
A few of the Audubon illustrations were never delivered or were lost during the past 172 years and the remaining 430 needed intensive cleaning and conservation. The other approximately 1,100 volumes in the special collection include rare legal works, handwritten records, and books from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The room’s oldest book was published in 1579.
“These documents belong to the people of Maryland and we have a duty to maintain them,” said Steve Anderson, director of the Maryland State Law Library. “We had many volumes in our former Rare Books Room, but while that room helped us set aside and protect our rare works to a limited extent, the space was too small and not designed with preservation in mind. We recognized that in building the Special Collections Room we had a unique opportunity to preserve and protect these unique items for this and future generations.”
The library started construction of the Special Collections Room, restoration of the Audubon illustrations, and identification, sorting, and cleaning of its older and rare items in July 2005. At 800 square feet, the new room is twice as large as its predecessor. An air filtering system and automatic climate controls maintain the room at 62 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent humidity. The low-level lighting is UV-filtered to prevent damage to the collection, and the carpet, shelving, paint, and wallpaper are designed to eliminate the emission of deteriorating chemicals. The room’s stringent security measures include cameras and code locks.
The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia handled the restoration and conservation work on the Audubon illustrations, as each illustration was meticulously cleaned and individually placed in archival triple-mats. The library built a specially lit, climate-controlled, secure case to display two Audubon illustrations at a time in the main library.
For more information, or to arrange for a tour of the Special Collections Room, please contact the Court Information Office at (410) 260-1488. Media are invited to bring cameras, with prior approval.