Sterling Morton Library

Library Pathfinder Series

A series highlighting library and special collections resources

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Welcome to the Library Pathfinder Series, launched in July 2022. This new column from the Sterling Morton Library highlights library and special collections resources, as well as events, activities, and research at The Morton Arboretum.

Each month’s post focuses on a botanical, horticultural, or Arboretum-related topic, encouraging exploration of Sterling Morton Library and the Arboretum. Each column provides additional resources, recommendations for related activities, and related educational opportunities coming up at the Arboretum.

Planting Trees (April 2023)

In April we celebrate Arbor Day, a holiday dedicated to planting, caring for, and celebrating trees. To encourage the planting of trees, the first Arbor Day was organized in tree-barren Nebraska in 1872. The Morton family motto was “Plant Trees,” which inspired Joy Morton, president of the Morton Salt Company in Chicago, to carry on the tradition by establishing The Morton Arboretum in 1922. Today, all 50 states and many countries around the world recognize Arbor Day in honor of trees and their value to us. Arbor Day in Illinois is the last Friday in April, but other states observe Arbor Day on different dates according to their best tree-planting times.

Read more about the history of Arbor Day explore resources related to tree planting in the April 2023 Pathfinder feature: Tree Planting

Finding May T. Watts (March 2023)

The collections of the Sterling Morton Library feature many objects created by women, from the exquisite gouache eighteenth-century paintings by German artist Barbara Regina Dietzsch to the scientific papers of The Morton Arboretum’s former tree breeder, Sue Wiegrefe. But one of the library’s most extensive and varied collections is the collection of May Theilgaard Watts materials. At the Arboretum, Watts is known for establishing the education program, but she was also a noted naturalist, author, artist, poet, and environmental activist who left a legacy that extends beyond the Arboretum.

Read more about the legacy of May T. Watts by reading the March 2023 Pathfinder feature: Finding May T. Watts

American Ornithology (February 2023)

The Morton Arboretum has been collecting rare botanical books and artwork since it was first established a century ago in 1922. Suzette Morton Davidson, former chair of The Morton Arboretum’s Board of Trustees and granddaughter of Joy Morton, took great interest in the Sterling Morton Library and in botanical art and books. Davidson was instrumental in the growth and development of the library’s special collections, so much so that the library’s Suzette Morton Davidson Special Collections were named in her honor.

Read more about the Sterling Morton Library’s rare books and artwork by reading the February 2023 Pathfinder feature: American Ornithology.

Leafing Through the History (October 2022)

The Morton Arboretum has been collecting rare botanical books and artwork since it was first established a century ago in 1922. The library’s Rare Publications Collection consists of more than 5,000 volumes, including journals, nursery catalogs, and books. The oldest book in the Sterling Morton Library’s Rare Publications Collection is Historia Naturalis (natural history), written by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD and printed in 1481.

Read more about the history contained in the Sterling Morton Library’s vast collection by reading the October Pathfinder feature: Leafing Through the History.


100 Years of Beautiful Landscape Design (September 2022)

In celebration of its centennial year, The Morton Arboretum will unveil its newest attraction, The Grand Garden, in September 2022. This colorful outdoor landscape garden is a gorgeous example of how the Arboretum is committed to landscape beauty while also planting collections of scientific value. Over the years, each of the Arboretum’s landscape architects have preserved the vision and style begun in 1922 while adding their own influence and design.

Read more about the history of landscape design at the Arboretum and learn about the different designers and architects who contributed to the grounds in September’s feature: 100 Years of Beautiful Landscape Design.

The Morton Arboretum Celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the Schulenberg Prairie (July 2022)

The year 2022 not only marks The Morton Arboretum’s centennial celebration but also the 60th anniversary of the Schulenberg Prairie, located on the Arboretum’s West Side. The Schulenberg Prairie and savanna is one of the nation’s oldest tallgrass prairie restorations, dating back to 1962 when former Arboretum director Clarence Godshalk developed plans for a “native planting” on farmland that had been acquired in the late 1950s on the Arboretum’s western edge.

Read more about the history of this remarkable piece of land in July’s feature: The Morton Arboretum Celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the Schulenberg Prairie.