Type(s) of establishmentNatural History and Natural Science Museums
Type Permanent display
Collection Audubon’s book Birds of America
In August 2016, the San Diego Natural History Museum (the NAT) opened the Eleanor and Jerome Navarra Special Collections Gallery. A new permanent space dedicated to showcasing the holdings of its research library and rare book room.
The crown jewel of the exhibition is a rare edition of the gigantic “double elephant” folio of John James Audubon’s Birds of America (1860).
“Double elephant” is the name of the largest standard paper size used in book production. Despite its cost, Audubon chose to produce his book using 50 inches high “double elephant” paper, so he could paint his birds at life size. Double elephant editions are rare and impressive, and when laying open, the NAT’s copy measures 50 inches tall and 54 inches wide.
The NAT was looking for a solution to display the large Audubon book in a museum-quality display case, with the specification to have easy access to the book on a frequent basis.
In addition, it was required that the museum could flip the book pages without touching any structure or rubbing the glass surface.
A large humidity-controlled table case measuring 65 inches long by 50 inches wide with a 16 inches glass top was custom designed for this giant masterpiece. It was supplied with a heavy-duty sliding display surface that would allow the book to safely slide out in full for maintenance and to flip pages.