This week, I spent some time down in the archives to explore past cataloging efforts around the lake. When I first showed up in the archives, I was a little disappointed because there were very few hand-drawn maps that would be useful for me.
However, a few days later T. Kevin and T. Mary managed to find some immense bird lists from the past seventy years. While I had been hoping for some catalogs that contained student-created drawings, I was excited because these documents showed a rich and detailed history of a thriving group at Westtown called Bird Club.
While pouring over the huge box of documents T. Kevin gave me, I noticed that the majority of them were created by Bird Club in the 1950’s. They were a thriving club and Westtown was, since the early 1800’s, a hub for bird enthusiasts and ornithology. In fact, Westtown used to share some of their specimens with the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Academy would share some back. Westtown even had a bird museum! Many people wonder why there are steps next to Room 6 and they used to lead to the Bird Museum.
Here’s a map where you can see the Bird Museum labeled next to Room 6:
Bird Club was a student run club that had over thirty active members. While this may not sound like a lot, compared to modern-day clubs who have tons of members but few people who participate actively. In order to get into Bird Club, you had to pass a bird identification test! There was a President, a Vice-President, a Treasurer, and a Secretary. They kept serious notes and would do bird counts of the species on campus every season.
I copied below a sample page of the birds at Westtown cataloged in 1958. This was not part of their annual bird count, which was done in one day, but this was part of the large birding culture that surrounded Westtown.
While I did not find exactly what I was looking for when I went down to the archives, I did get a really interesting glimpse into Westtown’s past. Besides being able to see such a rich birding history at Westtown, some of the lists I got from the archives are going to help me know what birds I need to try and catalog by the end of the year.
I hope you found this topic as interesting as I did!