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Petersen Ornithological Collection

Grand Opening - Petersen Ornithological Collection

Collection Resources

About the Collection

The Mary Lou and Peter Petersen, Jr. Ornithological Collection is comprised of approximately 1,000 unique titles of rare and high quality ornithological books, periodicals, banding cards and records dating back to 1886. Although the major focus of the collection is birds, other animal classifications are broadly represented.

Peter Petersen, a Davenport, IA native who died in 1997, bequeathed the collection to WIU Libraries just prior to his death. He was a nationally renowned scholar and bird watcher whose observations were among the first to raise public consciousness that DDT was endangering the U.S. bald eagle population. Elton Fawks, a close friend of Petersen's and a Quad Cities conservationist, also contributed to this cause. Fawks' collection also resides in Western's University Libraries.

"Peter taught joyfully the sight and sound of birds," said Tom Dunstan, professor emeritus of biology, former acting director of the Institute for Environment Studies at WIU and longtime friend and colleague of the Petersens. "This is an excellent collection accumulated by a man whose knowledge of birds was among the best in the country. At the time of his passing, WIU was among several universities interested in obtaining the collection. We were fortunate to have been the recipient."

The gift also includes a substantial amount of field equipment used by licensed birders to capture, catalog and release birds in the wild for research and tracking purposes. Mary Lou Petersen, herself an avid birdwatcher, continues to add to the Petersen Collection on a regular basis.

"The University Libraries staff is proud to present this comprehensive collection to support research not only on the WIU campuses, but to individuals and institutions in our region and beyond," said Phyllis Self, dean of WIU Libraries.

"The College of Arts and Sciences is gratified to have such an excellent research collection at the disposal of our faculty and students," said Inessa Levi, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Petersen, we now have an extensive ornithological collection that will be used not only by researchers, but also by naturalists, artists, historians, writers, travelers and photographers for many generations to come."