Rufous Hummingbird with red-flowering currant, one of many works of art by R. Bruce Horsfall previously housed at Portland Audubon and preserved by a joint effort between Reed College, the Oregon Historical Society, and Portland Audubon. 
Rufous Hummingbird with red-flowering currant, one of many works of art by R. Bruce Horsfall previously housed at Portland Audubon and preserved by a joint effort between Reed College, the Oregon Historical Society, and Portland Audubon. 
Arts & Humanities

Good Eggs

Reedies flock to help Audubon save historic illustrations.

By Ann Littlewood ’68 | September 7, 2019

Three historic Oregon institutions are cooperating to preserve historic Oregon art. 

Portland Audubon, Reed College, and Oregon Historical Society are collaborating to conserve nearly 100 year-old watercolors by R. Bruce Horsfall. These paintings illustrated Birds of the Pacific Coast, written by Willard Ayes Eliot and published in 1923. Eliot presumably chose Horsfall to illustrate the book because Horsfall was an internationally known wildlife illustrator and they both lived in Portland at the time. Horsfall created 56 color plates showing the 116 birds described in the book, all painted in their natural habitat. The book was beautiful and it was popular–at least five editions were published.

W.A. Eliot (no relation to Reed’s Thomas Lamb Eliot) donated the paintings to Portland Audubon where they were displayed for many years. But then they were put away and not seen for decades. Portland Audubon’s recent efforts to organize its historical materials led to concerns about storing the art properly. Negotiations commenced with Oregon Historical Society, which is well equipped to store fragile art. But a concern arose–Portland Audubon had used the paintings as illustrations in its own publications, including Familiar Birds of Northwest Forests, Fields, and Gardens, by David B. Marshall, 1973. The illustrations might come in handy for future projects. Modern scans were needed before the art left for a new home.

That led to Portland Audubon volunteers Ann Littlewood ’68 and Susan Applegate MAT ’71 contacting the Reed College Art Department. Professor Akihiko Miyoshi connected them with Paul McAllister, digital media/photography assistant, who helped them use the art department scanner and software. Susan brought her Timber Press publishing expertise and Ann brought snacks. After eleven hours of work, the art was scanned to exacting publication standards, carefully repackaged, and ready for final negotiations with Oregon Historical Society. The plan is that the scans will eventually be online at the OHS website and available in the public domain for anyone to appreciate.

Modern connections between Reed and Portland Audubon abound. Members of Audubon’s Archives Committee also include Esther Forbyn ’16, Audubon’s Facilities and Sanctuaries Manager; Bob Sallinger ’91, Audubon’s Director of Conservation; and volunteer Brian Click ’16. A historical connection exists as well–R. Bruce Horsfall’s son, Robert Bruce Horsfall, Jr., graduated from Reed in 1930, and his grandson Bob Horsfall graduated in 1963. Also, Bob recently let us now that "My parents actually met at Reed; my mother Margery Washburn Horsfall ’28 and my paternal grandmother Carra Elizabeth Hunting Horsfall ’30 were also Reedies."

Tags: Alumni