By Sarah Adams, a McGill Master of Information Studies student and Young Canada Works Summer 2018 Archives Intern
I have enjoyed working on the Casey Albert Wood archival collection (MSG 1203) and working with the staff in the Rare Books and Special Collections department of McGill University Library.
One aspect of the collection I’ve appreciated and been touched by is Casey Wood’s dedication to the things and people he loved. Wood showed this dedication through the creation of the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology. This library brings together Wood’s love of birds, book collecting, his pet parrot John III, and especially for his wife Emma.
It seems that Wood’s close friendship with Sir William Osler inspired him to build his own library collection at McGill University, much like Osler did. Wood decided to start a library focusing on ornithology around 1918. Around this time, Wood was working as an ophthalmologist for the U.S. War Department. After he retired in 1920, and until the late 1930s, Wood embarked on a second career studying and writing about birds in their natural habitat. Much of the archival material I’ve been working with was donated to the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology and the Blacker Library of Zoology during this time, most of it by Casey Wood. He also spent these years collecting books, artwork, and other materials related to ornithology and zoology for these libraries.
Along with naming the Emma Shearer Wood Library after his wife, Wood also had their pet parrot John III illustrated on the the library’s book plate. The book plate went through various designs over the years and one book featured in the collection shows these changes. The book includes the first original drawing from 1918, along with three other versions of the first design by U. S. government engraver G. F. C. Smillie.
However, from this note in the book it seems Wood wasn’t overly happy with the first design in the end.
So another bookplate was made by Bumpus of London designed by M. P. Barrett, which also went through its own evolution; however the illustration still included Wood’s beloved companion John III.
According to former Blacker Wood Librarian Eleanor MacLean’s presentation, “Building the Blacker Wood,” after a while Emma decided that since she didn’t have much to do with the library, its name should be changed to the Wood Library of Ornithology. This presentation was given at the 2018 colloquium “The Eyes Have It: A Re-appreciation of Casey Wood.”
Working with the Casey Albert Wood Collection has also made me curious about who Emma was and what she did during Wood’s research trips. She must have been a strong and dedicated woman to travel with her husband all over the world while he conducted his research.