By Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project
|Inside covers of "Field notes, Mexico, July-August, 1965." Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU007316, Box 15, Folder 13.|
It’s not uncommon for specimen collectors to write about how they deal with the stresses, successes, and social gatherings with colleagues. These frequently include passing references to the sharing of libations. In honor of Oktoberfest we want to highlight a particularly well-documented love of a good brew, found in the field book of Robert Silberglied (1946-1982).
What do you expect to find in a field book? Specimen numbers, sketches, photographs…and beer labels? Open Silberglied’s field book from 1965 and that’s exactly what you’ll find. He removed and carefully pasted beer labels from Ballantine Brewery, Dos Equis, and Cerveceria Moctezuma across the inside covers of the volume.
Robert Silberglied, an entomologist, was an Assistant Professor of Biology at Harvard University and Assistant Curator of Lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ). His field book from 1965 is part of a collection at Smithsonian Institution Archives and documents field work completed during his days as an undergraduate student at Cornell University. It is an excellent example of one of my favorite types of field books – those from collectors new to the field.
|Example of postcards and other ephmera found in "Field notes, Mexico, July-August, 1965." Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU007316, Box 15, Folder 13.|
I love these types of field books because they not only document new collectors developing their field book style (what they will record and how) but also the personal thoughts and impressions that are frequently left out of later books as collectors become accustomed to the challenges and peculiarities of field work. These field books can contain passages discussing the value of the work as well as extended descriptions of what may be a collector’s first professional travel abroad. One can feel the enthusiasm and energy of the collectors as they document the beginning of their scientific career.
|Envelope pasted into Silberglied's field book, holding postcards sent to his family during his field work in Mexico.|
Silberglied’s field book is an interesting example of this type; he doesn’t comment in the text about the novelty of the trip, but instead demonstrates the travel and social side of the work with his choice of inserts and ephemera. Each item is carefully attached, and even after nearly 50 years, these items are well affixed. Items include news clippings, beer labels, postcards showing accommodations and tourist spots, and even the letter signed by his parents giving permission for him to take part in the trip. In his notes, he took the time to list each member of the collecting trip (including those that appear to be family members) and which vehicle they are taking. He describes travel enroute:
[July 12, 1965] 2 bees flew in car window in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and were collected. At gas station in Livingston, Alabama, I noticed some very territorial butterflies: Nymphalid on gas station pump, Libytheid at mud puddle.
Postcards are carefully pasted in and sometimes cut along the gutter so the pages completely close. Perhaps most telling is the envelope pasted in the back labeled “postcards sent home from Mexico.”
|Page from Silberglied's field book with a list of participants (per vehicle) for collecting trip in Mexico.|
|Article from The New York Times, July 7, 1965, pasted into Silberglied's field book describing field work to be completed.|
The beer labels bring forward the social aspect of field work. Unlike life in the office, life in the field means spending 24-7 with people; social and professional life must be able to blend. This is one more challenge for a new scientist. Somehow, seeing his field book, I imagine a young scientist, sitting back, having a beer, and taking a moment to appreciate the new and unknown with his colleagues.
So to all who are in the field or yearning to be, cheers! And Happy Oktoberfest.
For more Oktoberfest stories from the field, see Smithsonian Institutions Archives' post about the importance of the legend of the beer machine.
Curious to learn more about Silberglied?