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The book and the kiosk

Publication Date:  30 July 2013

It has been pointed out that if you ever see a copy of Audubon's Birds of America lying round a junk shop, you should consider buying it.

It should stand out being a double elephant folio, an enormous 100cm x 67cm allowing life-size engravings of its subjects. Even by today's standards, the vividness of its illustrations is extraordinary but when it was being released in the 1830s it was mindboggling.

Even so it may be hard to track down. All but 13 of the 120 remaining copies are held in museums, libraries and universities around the world. The University of Michigan has a copy, the University of Pittsburgh has a copy, Sheikh Saud Al-Thani of Qatar has a copy, having paid $8.8 million for it at Christie's in 2000.

Liverpool Central Library also has a copy.

But having got a copy how should they present this astounding book? An important question as the wonderfully refurbished Central Library comes with a £55 million price tag and the need to attract 1 million visitors a year. To this end it is as much tourist attraction as library, and Birds of America is its biggest draw.

As the artefact itself is kept in a glass climate controlled case, with a new page being unveiled each Monday morning only the truly dedicated are likely to get to view the whole thing. True you could view it at http://www.lib.umich.edu/pictureit/bin/Volume_1.1/main.html  but at the loss of any sense of scale and occasion.

How then have Liverpool City Council enabled residents and tourists alike to view the full folio, at full size, and in the dramatic setting of the beautifully restored Oak Room?

The book and the kiosk - 1

The book and the kiosk 2

That will be the Ev5.