New exhibition follows journey of two friends across 1,600 miles of North Dakota wetlands

Starting Thursday, Sept. 19, visitors will be taken on a visual journey through the experiences of birders Walter M. Rosene, Sr., and Walter Bennett. The exhibition – presented by Special Collections and University Archives – follows the route of the duo’s 1924 trip from Sioux City, Iowa, to East Central North Dakota as documented in Rosene’s travel journal. Detailed notes taken on the trip represent some of the earliest observations of birding areas that are now well-known for their value to ornithological study. The display will be available through fall 2020 in Parks Library Room 403.

Detailed bird observations and poetic descriptions of fascinating accounts enable visitors to see the beauty of nature through Rosene’s eyes. Excerpts from his journal are complimented by photographs and hand-colored lantern slides taken on the trip, and maps and supplemental materials place the road trip in the larger context of environmental and social concerns of the Great Plains in the early 20th century.

Rosene, the first president of the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union, and Bennett, a biological investigator and bird life lecturer, dedicated most of their lives to conservation and bird study, and their 1,600-mile journey remained a memorable and important experience throughout their birding careers.

Many of the documents and photographs are from the Walter M. Rosene, Sr. Papers and are available digitally as part of the Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn) – a newly launched web portal of Iowa ornithological primary sources supported by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The avIAn project documents nearly 100 years of bird study in Iowa and includes materials from some of the Midwest's most prominent conservationists.

The University Library would like to give special thanks to the following exhibition partners: Iowa Young Birders, Iowa Ornithologist’s Union, Ames History Museum, the ISU Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management and Wild Birds Unlimited of Ames.  

Sept. 24: Exhibition Reception

Join us to learn behind the scenes details about the creation of the exhibition and its connection to the recently completed Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn). Attendees will have the unique opportunity to hear from exhibition curators Erin Anderson and Amy Bishop as they discuss their findings and the impact it has on local and national communities. 

What: Following the Trail of a Bird Watching Road Trip: A Curators’ Journey

When: 7-8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 24

Where: Ames Public Library Farewell T. Brown Auditorium, 515 Douglas Ave, Ames IA 50010

Included Images

Photograph of a young Ring-billed Gull perching on a rock close to the shore of Stump Lake, North Dakota. Slide originally titled "Ring Bill Chick." The lantern slide is hand-colored. June 21, 1924. Facsimile. Box 4, folder 49.

Image of a male Wilson's Phalarope swimming in a marshy area. Slide originally titled "Wilson's Phalarope–Male." The lantern slide is hand-colored. No date. Facsimile. Box 3, folder 52.

Photograph of a Pintail Duck nest containing nine eggs and two stones. Slide originally titled "Pintail Nest with 2 Stones." The lantern slide is hand-colored. June 25, 1924. Facsimile. Box 1, folder 48.

Hand-colored lantern slide of Walter Rosene and Walter W. Bennett eating lunch. 1924. Facsimile. Box 4, folder 44.

Contact Information

Rachel Seale, University Library Special Collections and University Archives Outreach Archivist ­­515-294-5311 or

Nacuya Rucker, University Library External Relations Director 515-294-2155 or


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