Libraries are books, right? Yes, and more… when the Smithsonian Institution Libraries acquired the Russell E. Train Africana Collection we became the proud protectors of field notebooks, photographs, glass slides, correspondence, and original drawings from naturalists, such as Edmund Heller pictured at right, and explorers in Africa during the past 200 years, as well as posters, newspapers, tea cups, and other memorabilia illustrating the fascination with African exploration among the folks back home. We even have the shot-gun of missionary and anti-slavery activist David Livingstone (1813-1873; “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”) and poisoned arrows from a poachers’ camp that was broken up by Mr. Train’s safari group in the 1950s.
More to the point at present, the Africana collection includes original photographs and manuscript materials from the Smithsonian/Roosevelt African Expedition of 1909-1910, that complement the Smithsonian’s own Archives and Museum records. For example, there are over 100 glass slides, many of them hand-colored, showing Theodore Roosevelt, the hunting party, native peoples, and various wild animals. There is also a substantial cache of field notes, documents, typescripts for articles, newspaper clippings, photos, and correspondence from Edmund Heller (1875-1939), the American naturalist who was one of the Smithsonian’s representatives on the safari with Roosevelt and was in charge of preserving the big-game specimens (see photos below).
In his African game trails (New York, 1910), compiled from articles that he wrote for Scribner’s Magazine during the course of the expedition, Roosevelt speaks highly of Heller, both as a preparer of specimens and as a comrade in the field.
After their return, the two co-authored Life-histories of African game animals (New York, 1914 - see above image at far right).
Heller made a remarkable career of expeditions and specimen collecting throughout the world:
- the Galapagos Islands & Peru (1898-99) for Stanford University;
- Alaska & British Columbia (1900) for a U.S. biological survey;
- East Africa (1907) with Carl Akeley for the Field Museum;
- East Africa (1909-10) with Roosevelt for the Smithsonian;
- British East Africa & Abyssinia (1912) with Paul Rainey;
- Central Asia (1916-17) with Roy Chapman for the American Museum of Natural History;
- Central Africa (1919) for the Smithsonian;
- and Central Africa again (1923-26) for the Field Museum.
Heller’s last years were spent, presumably more restfully, as the director of zoos in Milwaukee and San Francisco.
The Russell E. Train African Collection, including the Roosevelt and Heller materials, are held in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, one of SI Libraries’ rare-book rooms, in the National Museum of Natural History.
Leslie K. Overstreet, Curator of Natural-History Rare Books, Smithsonian Institution Libraries