by Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project cataloger
Page from “Edward A. Chapin - Field notebook, Colombia, 1941-1942.” Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 11-085, Box 1 Folder 2.
On August 12th, Smithsonian officially launched the Smithsonian Transcription Center. One of my favorite features of the site is the ability to download PDF’s of projects once volunteers have fully transcribed and reviewed them. One of the completed projects, “Edward A. Chapin - Field notebook, Colombia, 1941-1942,” happens to be the source for the Field Book Project logo. I thought this would be a great time to take a look at a PDF download and see if I could find out a little more about our flower.
Have you ever wondered about the inspiration for our logo? It is a pressed and dried orchid found in one of the first field books we digitized. The flower was affixed to one of the last pages of the field book with the caption, “One of Clara's orchids.” The Clara in question was Clara Chapin, Edward Chapin’s wife. During Edward Chapin’s work in Columbia, he and his wife spent part of their time with local colleagues and their families. Some of these outings are documented in the photographs Chapin put in his field book, shown below. One of my favorites shows a little girl named Alicia next to a large, unidentified plant.
Alicia with unidentified plant. From “Edward A. Chapin - Field notebook, Colombia, 1941-1942.” Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 11-085, Box 1 Folder 2.
I decided to try a few word searches of the PDF see if I could discover text that might allow me to surmise the story behind the flower. It turned out to be easier than I expected. With a few searches, I found a phrase that led me to a possible answer. The word “orchid” appears six times in the text; “orchids” only appears four. There is only one reference to multiple orchids being given to Clara. The following text seemed most likely the source of the pressed flower.
Mar. 15. We packed all the morning and were ready for an early lunch. At one o'clock the Murillos called for us. Alicia presented Clara with a huge bunch of orchids, a dozen stems of Cattleya and two dozen stems of Odontoglossum. We had a long wait at the airport but the time was occupied saying goodbye to all of our friends. The Butlers, the Carrolls, with their two children, the Cuatrecasas with their three, Dr Royo and Mrs Brickell.
The orchid may be one of these flowers given to Clara before her departure. The field book includes a brief description of going through Customs, but Edward doesn’t say that Clara had to give up the blooms. So could this orchid be from Alicia? I’d like to think so.
Thanks to the work of the Transcription Center volunpeers, field book text can now be searched for questions like this. Prior to this functionality, a researcher might have to hunt through each of the ninety-eight pages that comprise this book. Being able to conduct quick searches for terms like “orchids” in a transcribed volume means a researcher can rapidly find answers or determine if they must change their search terms.
Thank you to all the vonlunpeers whose work has made this functionality possible!