Edgar A. Mearns with woman and child, probably wife Ella and son Louis, during the Mexican Boundary Survey, 1892-1894. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 007083, Box 4, Folder 5. SIA2012-7705.
Edgar A. Mearns with woman and child, probably wife Ella and son Louis, during the Mexican Boundary Survey, 1892-1894. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 007083, Box 4, Folder 5. SIA2012-7705.
1281. Above Jalapa, Mexico. Photograph documents field work of E. A. Goldman and E. W. Nelson in Mexico, 1890-1910. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU7364, Box 31,. Folder 17. SIA2014-03203.
|From the journal of Donald Erdman. Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU007428, Box 1 Folder 2. Photograph courtesy of Lesley Parilla.|
In 1948, Donald Erdman participated in a fisheries survey of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea under the auspices of the Arabian American Oil Company. Between March and August of 1948 he collected nearly 5,000 fishes for the US National Museum. His journal for the survey is an incredibly rich, daily narrative of collecting events and observations. Though his collecting notes focus mostly on fish, his entries also document collecting or observations of corals, shrimps, crabs, mollusks, sea mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The journal is full of detailed (sometimes colored) renderings of sea life, birds, landscape, activities of local inhabitants and, as seen in the photograph above, subjects that are a little less scientific.
Pages 10 and 11, showing drawings of a boat, from Robert E. Silberglied's field book from entomological field work conducted on the Galapagos Islands in 1970. SIA2012-9801.
William M. Mann (1886-1960) began his scientific work as an entomologist and was employed by the Bureau of Entomology, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1916-1925. He is perhaps best known for his work as the fifth Superintendent of the National Zoological Park, 1925-1956. During his years with the National Zoo, Mann worked on the Zoo’s building program and took part in several well publicized expeditions to collect live animals in order to increase the zoo population. Some of these collecting trips were during the years of World War II.
The effects of military conflicts are not often explicitly stated in the field books, though we have come across a few. Mann’s Diary for 1940 is one such document. The diary primarily describes his work and travel during the Smithsonian-Firestone Expedition to Liberia, but also includes a folded insert. It is a 3 page letter to "Campbell c/o R.H. Weesner Jr" detailing 1939 conditions of zoos in United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium, specifically noting damage from the on-going war.
“Diary, 1940”. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Record Unit 007293, Box 7 Folder 4. Picture by Lesley Parilla.
By Lesley Parilla, Cataloger, Field Book Project
Special thanks to the “volunpeers” at Smithsonian Transcription Center for their assistance with this post.
Specimens and field documentation can come from unexpected sources. We’ve touched on a few of these sources in the past—road kill and expeditions with former presidents to name two. We came across another one that just had to be highlighted, and maybe it will even help you choose your summer reading list! It turns out that some well-known novelists contributed to natural history collections.
The search started after learning about the book, Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods, (University of Chicago Press, 2014). In a recent interview on NPR’s Science Friday, the author Richard B. Primack discussed how he was able to use information Thoreau recorded in his personal journals to document changes in climate. This was partly due to Thoreau’s strong interest in the natural world; he didn’t just record details about weather but also about plant phenology. I came to wonder, did he limit his interest to recording natural history observations, or did he perhaps collect specimens?
It turns out that Thoreau has botanical specimens deposited in the herbarium at the University of Connecticut! So we began to wonder, are there other writers who may have helped document the natural world? Here are a few we found.
Do you know of other novelists that expressed their interest in the natural world through collecting? Let us know in the comments section below!
Alexander Wetmore and friends [Jim Seely, Clarence Cook, and Art Rudy] in North Freedom, Wisconsin, February 22, 1902. SIA2011-2231.
By Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project Cataloger
The Field Book Project is excited to introduce its latest Flickr set, selected from the field photographs of E. W. Nelson and E. A. Goldman. Images document Nelson and Goldman’s years of field work in Mexico. The set complements transcription projects in Smithsonian’s Transcription Center.
|Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 7364 ,Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman Collection, circa 1873-1946 and undated. SIA2014-03597.|
The Field Book Project has documented the papers of several scientists who worked closely together for periods of time, or had long associations, but few seem as closely linked as Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman. My first introduction to Nelson and Goldman was while cataloging in the Division of Mammals, at National Museum of Natural History. A researcher was in the archive verifying Nelson and Goldman specimen numbers. I was amazed to realize that for the period of time that they collected together, even their names were combined in their specimen numbering system.
|Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 7364, Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman Collection, circa 1873-1946 and undated. SIA2014-03202.|
Nelson and Goldman worked for the US Biological Survey and together are known for their field work in Mexico, 1892-1906. The partnership that would prove so important to both men began, when Nelson went on a new assignment to the San Joaquin Valley for the US Biological Survey. He had recently completed work on the Expedition to Death Valley, and was heading through California when the singletree on his buckboard wagon broke. Nelson met a rancher (Goldman’s father) who assisted with the repair. As the two talked, they discovered a shared interest in natural sciences. During the course of conversation, Nelson mentioned the need of an assistant. Goldman’s father suggested his 18-year-old son who was working at a vineyard in Fresno, California. Goldman sent for his son. This first meeting must have gone well; Goldman accepted the position as Nelson’s assistant, leaving his current job where he made $56 a month, with board included, to work for Nelson for $30 a month plus board which Nelson paid out of his own salary.
|Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 7364, Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman Collection, circa 1873-1946 and undated. SIA2014-03153.|
After a trial period collecting together in the San Joaquin Valley proved satisfactory, Nelson and Goldman made their first joint collecting trip into western Mexico. The trip was to take 3 months, but lasted four years. In 1892, Goldman received a federal appointment as assistant field agent, through Nelson’s recommendation. Eventually they would jointly collect for 14 years.
Young, Stanley P. (1947). “ Edward Alphonso Goldman: 1873-1946).” Journal of Mammalogy. 28 (2). Retrieved from http://vertebrates.si.edu/birds/Hall_of_fame/InMemoriamPDFs/Goldman.pdf
Goldman, E. A. (1935). “Edward William Nelson – Naturalist. “ The Auk: Quarterly Journal of Ornithology. 52 (2). Retrieved from http://vertebrates.si.edu/birds/Hall_of_fame/InMemoriamPDFs/Nelson.pdf
Field books are fascinating. The sheer variety of content and formats can be dizzying. The Smithsonian has field books that document field work on every continent. They not only document natural history but sometimes include personal insights on contemporary events. I would also say that field books suffer from the same problem as archival materials in general. Like most archive collections, users may not initially know what to expect in terms of the kind of information a field book might contain, so users have a difficult time anticipating what they might find useful.
Over the years I’ve seen multiple articles written by archivists about how challenging a visit to an archive can be for a first time user. First time users may be very experienced at research. It’s not uncommon for them to be working on advanced degrees. However their research experience may be limited to utilizing secondary sources like books and journals found in a library or now ever-present on Google.
Archival materials vary dramatically in content and format, and each collection has its own structure. Users may ask what kind of information they can find in an archival collection. The answer is: it depends on the collection creator. All the papers, photographs, emails, even text messages a creator made during a lifetime could end up being housed in an archive collection. That’s a lot of varied and possibly important, unique information. Field documentation can be just as varied in content and format.
So back to my original question: what do you do with a field book?
We often write about the great stories and surprising finds in the field books, but at the heart of it, these documents hold a wealth of information, waiting to be used. The more accessible we make the information, the more ways people will find to use it. Have you used field books in your research? If so, let us know in the comments!
The Field Book Project is pleased to announce that nine of the Smithsonian field books that we’ve cataloged and imaged are now available through the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) portal!
With over 43 million pages of the published biodiversity literature, BHL has greatly improved the efficiency of access to the published literature--much of which was previously available online in limited physical copies in but a few select libraries in the developed world. As unique primary source documents, field books present similar challenges and we are very pleased to provide another layer of access to these important materials.
Scientists' field notes are, in many ways, the precursors to the published literature. Journals (the unpublished kind), diaries, collecting lists, photo albums, and other primary source documentation of collecting events can enhance not only the scientific understanding of what has already been published but can also provide insights into the historical, sometimes even personal, context behind the research.
The Field Book Project has cataloged over 7,000 Smithsonian field books and imaged over 400 of those which are available through the Smithsonian Collection Search Center along with additional contextual information in the form of collection records and authority files. The nine field books chosen as the first testbed set for ingest into BHL include item records and page scans for seven diaries created by David Crockett Graham and two photo albums from the Harriman Alaska Expedition (1899) from the collections of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Each item not only tells its own fascinating story of exploration but also provides information and insights that complement materials already in BHL.
In addition to making these available alongside the related literature in BHL, we are especially pleased to see these notes joining the 62 other field notes that are already in BHL thanks to the Connecting Content project. The original vision for the Field Book Project was to create one online location for field books, regardless of physical location. Now you can view the Smithsonian field notes alongside those from the California Academy of Science, Missouri Botanical Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Harvard Botany Libraries and Museum of Comparative Zoology. And with the crowdsourcing transcription efforts underway both at the Smithsonian Transcription Center and kicking off with BHL's Purposeful Gaming project earlier this month, we're looking forward to seeing more great things come out of the continued partnership!
David Crockett Graham (1884-1961) was an American missionary and collector working in China over the period of 1911-1948. In the U.S., Graham had studied theology, anthropology, and ethonology. As part of the Proceedings of the United States National Museum (v.80, 1932), BHL has made available an article authored, detailing the architectural structures, carvings and artifacts he observed in the artificial caves in Szechuan Province. But his work was not limited to cultural and anthropological inquiry. Graham also spent summers collecting biological specimens for the U.S. National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History), receiving the honorary title of Collaborator in Biology in 1932. His diaries from those summers provide a fascinating perspective onto his experiences while collecting, from the logistical aspects of organizing a collecting team and their supplies to the impact of heavy rains and extreme heat on their travels. His natural curiosity is evident as he pesters a stinky beetle (June 6, 1928) and marvels at how, after discovering a large number of moths in a nearby bush, they do not come to his lantern at night (June 14, 1928).
Entry from June 6, 1928 of David Crockett Graham's Diary no. III., May 27, 1928 - October 12, 1928. Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU007148, David Crockett Graham Papers, 1923-1936. Box 1 Folder 5. SIA2012-2415.
The Harriman Alaska Expedition (1899) is the fascinating--and true--story of a railroad tycoon's family vacation and scientific expedition rolled into one. After his physician recommended a vacation to combat exhaustion, Edward Henry Harriman, President of the Union Pacific Railroad, began planning a big game hunt for his family. Exhausted as he may have been, though, he remained ambitious even in rest. By the time they set sail for Alaska on May 31, 1899, the family vacation transformed into a full-scale exploring expedition. The list of participants reads like a roll call of renowned scientists, naturalists, and artists of the time, many of whom whose names are still well-known today: Clinton Hart Merriam, Frederick Vernon Coville, Thomas Kearney, William Healey Dall, Robert Ridgway, and over a hundred others.
Fairweather Range --Seen across Glacier Bay from Sunday Island Souvenir of the Harriman Alaska Expedition, May-August, 1899, volume 1, New York to Cook Inlet. Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU007243, Harriman Alaska Expedition collection, 1899-1900. Box 1. SIA2012-3666.
Not surprisingly, the expedition resulted in several publications, including the Harriman Alaska Series a multi-volume report on Alaska's geography and biodiversity, including insects, crustaceans, and invertebrates. The two photo albums were assembled as souvenirs for expedition participants and include hundreds of photographs, the bulk of which show Alaskan landscapes and glaciers as they appeared in 1899. While some photographs from the expedition were also included in the reports and other publications, as a whole, these albums help to fill in our contextual understanding of the place and time in which Alaska's biodiversity was being recorded by the Harriman Expedition. They also offer a glimpse into the human experience of the expedition, from a family outing on Lowe Inlet to a fire drill aboard the George W. Elder.
Fire Drill. Souvenir of the Harriman Alaska Expedition, May-August, 1899, volume 1, New York to Cook Inlet. Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU007243, Harriman Alaska Expedition collection, 1899-1900. Box 1. SIA2012-3666.
We hope you enjoy taking a look through the first of the Smithsonian field notes to be added to BHL. Let us know what you discover by leaving us a comment!
Lesser frigate-bird colony, Phoenix Island, 1965. This photograph was taken by researcher Robert R. Fleet during his work with the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program. SIA2011-1362.
by Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project
There are many skills needed in the natural sciences. Successful and thoughtful study of natural history relies on a host of individuals whose skills and personalities vary dramatically depending on their role. There must be someone to excel at collecting specimens (and dealing with all the challenges that come with that), study the specimens, taxonomy, collection management, and explanation of resulting scientific findings. Modern natural history also requires the ability to communicate its value to a wide variety of audiences. Needless to say these skills rarely exist in one person.
At the Field Book Project, we are most familiar with those who excelled at collecting specimens and observing natural phenomena. The person who is blessed with the ability to understand the natural world is not always one who is blessed with the ability or desire to explain it to others. This may explain why I have been so struck by a number of collectors’ whose words seem to break through the decades and impart a strong sense of personality, opinion, and often humor.
Some of these names are still well-known in scientific circles; others are only documented in archives and personal memory. However through the written word, one can still feel the force of their temperament, interests, and wit.
Slowly but surely more of their field books are becoming digitized; and to my great delight, these characteristics are helping their field book documentation become more accessible. Their ability to eloquently and clearly describe their field work is inspiring volunteers in Smithsonian’s Transcription Center to connect with the creators and their scientific work.
The individuals listed above are just a few of the creators whose words have stuck with me. Take a look through the field books on Transcription Center; new materials are continually added. You might be surprised by who and what you find.
Nephtyidae polychaetes. Taken during underwater specimen collecting during Waldo Schmitt's work on the Palmer Peninsula [Antarctica], 1962-1963. SIA2012-0671.
But sometimes it’s not saying what you expect…
We’ve come across a wide variety of images while cataloging field books. Some clearly document specimens, observations of habitat, candid interactions of colleagues, and others we have yet to determine the reason.
Some of my favorites are the images that seem clearly taken for one purpose until one reads the collector’s caption. We have several of these. Often these images look like pictures that could be found in any family album. Some include children or show general landscapes. They may appear quite pedestrian, until one reads the caption, and realizes the “why.” Below are a few examples. The first could pass as a picture of the family farm, the next possibly an image of long lost relatives, but each is providing important information to the scientists who included the photos in their field documentation.
Curious to see more? Check out Field Book Project Flickr sets on Smithsonian’s Flickrstream.
|Fertility erosion on ridge tops, 15 miles southwest of Pullman, Washington, March 1953. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 7279, Box 29, Folder 1, Envelope 16. SIA2014-00010.|
|Near view of native vegetation on sand-steppe near Heidesheim, Germany, 1914. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 007082, Box 5, Folder 1. SIA2012-3229.|
|Mary Agnes Chase's Field Work in Brazil, Image No. 1935. Cutting Stenotaphrum at Dr. Rolf's, Vicosa. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 000229, Box 20, Folder 1. SIA2012-3351a.|
|Primate, 1960. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 01-096, Martin H. Moynihan Papers, 1952-1996. Box 1, Folder 29 (Envelope 1). SIA2014-01181.|
Visual documentation—photographs, sketches, illustrations, video—can be a powerful tool for recording observations, with or without text. Each method has inherent benefits and drawbacks. A sketch may not be as “accurate” as a photograph, but a few lines of a sketch may record exactly the detail a collector wishes to remember. A photograph can be a great way to record behaviors that occur quickly, or details for later study. Just take a look at the field notes of Martin H. Moynihan, and see what I mean.
|Martin H. Moynihan's field notes on Alouatta palliata [South Pacific Blackish Howling Monkey] with drawing, August 30, 1961. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 01-096, Martin H. Moynihan Papers, 1952-1996. Box 2, Folder 3. SIA2014-03780.|
M. Moynihan was the first Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and a noted authority on animal behavior. His field notes are packed with images documenting the behaviors and interactions of the wildlife he observed. He chose to study a startlingly wide array of fauna: primates, birds, and squid. For each, he utilized drawing and photography, depending in the needs and challenges of the work.
Images in this Flickr set were selected to demonstrate how the method chosen affects the information imparted in his notes. Moynihan’s spare and elegant manner of drawing is particularly adept at proving how drawings can clarify or highlight a particular trait.
Curious to learn more? Check out Moynihan’s transcribed notes on Smithsonian Transcription Center.
William W. Welsh worked as a Scientific Assistant for the Bureau of Fisheries, Bureau of Biological Survey. The Field Book Project has cataloged the works of a number of specimen collectors like Welsh, individuals whose collecting is well documented but for whom we have few personal details. Though he was an active collector, as his field notes document, he has only one publication to his name. Fishes of the Gulf of Maine was published in Welsh’s name posthumously by his colleague Henry Bigelow.
The report was far advanced when interrupted by his untimely death, and so much of the materials had been collected that, at the request of the Bureau of Fisheries, I have undertaken to carry it to publication along the lines originally laid down, though I am unable to give it the value it would have possessed had Mr. Welsh been able to finish it.
William Welsh may not have a detailed biography available, but a tantalizing peak at his personality comes through with a short quote found in his field book from December 20, 1913.
New 4 ft ring
And bend and rig S.F. Trawl
Mend beam trawl
AND shake hands with Taft?!!!
The Field Book Project has cataloged more than 7,000 field books, and along the way we’ve found a lot of field books that have needed conservation treatment, ranging from simple rehousing to full disbinding. This work is completed by the amazing conservation staff at Smithsonian Institution Archives. Kirsten Tyree, one of SIA’s conservation professionals, has worked with the Project during the last two years and is moving on to new adventures.
We at the Field Book Project would like to wish her all the best in her future personal and professional endeavors!
Stereoscopic image of Dancers at Paulis-Mangbetu, taken while Waldo Schmitt was collecting for the Smithsonian during the Smithsonian-Bredin Belgian Congo Expedition, 1955. SIA2012-0403.
By Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project
More field books continue to be made available on Smithsonian’s Transcription Center. The Field Book Project has been working to provide additional background for some of these field book creators. Along the way we keep finding intriguing details about Smithsonian collectors.
I was recently looking for additional biographical information on nineteenth century entomologist Benjamin Dann Walsh, when I found the following quote in an article in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society from 1929:
Mr. [E. H.] Guyer says: “his daily activities in collecting insects and butterflies, of which he made a vast and famous collection, made him known to all the then inhabitants of the city. Every boy, as I then was, delighted in assisting him. In such pursuit he was run over by a locomotive on our levee” November 12, 1869 – “and died November 18, 1869 age sixty-one (61) years.”
If you have read Benjamin Dann Walsh’s biographical descriptions, they detail a short but impressive list of accomplishments. He was the first state entomologist of Illinois and founded the American Entomologist with Charles Valentine Riley. His biographical description in the Field Book Registry is what initially excited my interest: he prepared for the Church, but instead became a writer, lumber dealer, farmer, and entomologist. What I eventually found was a fascinating life: a man who changed countries, embraced new scientific theories, and in the end chose not a comfortable lifestyle but instead a fulfilling one.
It seems Walsh was a man of strong principles and opinions. He attended Trinity College, Cambridge University, earning a B.A. and M.A., subsequently becoming a Fellow for 12 years. He had intended on entering the Church, but began to feel strongly against University and Church policies, that he addressed in an 1837 treatise against University practices. At the age of 30, he and his wife Rebecca Finn immigrated to the United States, initially settling in Cambridge, Illinois, where he took up farming. Farming proved an inopportune career choice, and Walsh sold his farm and moved to Rock Island in 1851 where he established a lumber business that prospered and enabled him to build several rental properties. He had an interest in local politics, becoming a city alderman, investigating corruption, which resulted in threats to his life. A quote from Mrs. Edna Armstrong Tucker in the Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society in 1920 stated:
Having cause to suspect that the council was mulcting the city, he ran for alderman for the express purpose of getting at the facts and publishing them. After exposing the fraud, he resigned satisfied with having performed a duty and proven that he knew dangerous human bugs and knew where to stick the pin.
Walsh retired from the lumber business 1858 and began to pursue study of entomology. He became an early proponent of the theory of evolution, and began corresponding with Darwin.
It seems he lived life pursuing his interest and beliefs instead of pursuing one of ease. In a letter he wrote to the entomologist Philip Uhler, he stated:
Times are too hard for me to pay a cabinet-maker, so I handle the plane and the saw myself. [Thomas] Say lived on a dime a day, for the sake of devoting his time to Entomology. I am not quite so badly off as that, but I am forced to do one of two things—either go into business again or dress meanly, and I prefer the latter alternative.
Sheppard, Carol A. (2004). “Benjamin Dann Walsh.” Annual Review of Entomology. 2004 (49) 1–25. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.49.061802.123145
Pammel, L. H. (1929). “Benjamin Dann Walsh.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984). 21 (4) 556-568. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40187588
View from LORAN tower on Sand-Johnston Island, including antenna supports, 1964. Photograph was taken as part of field documentation for the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program. SIA2013-08810.
(In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Month)
The Field Book Project catalogs a wide range of field book formats. In fact, you can find more than 30 different types of field book contents in the Field Book Registry catalog. Maps are one of my favorite types. Over the years we’ve talked a lot about the photographs, drawings, and text we’ve found in collections, but the maps seemed to be mentioned less often. So it seemed appropriate to pull together some examples of the variety we’ve cataloged. There are more than 500 field book catalog records that include maps available to search on Smithsonian Collection Search Center. Below is just a small cross-section of those.
|Insect distribution maps in Robert E. Silberglied's field notes. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 007316, Box 13, Folder 27. SIA2012-9757.||Map drawn by Rafinesque during his travels from Philadelphia to Kentucky, 1818. Smithsonian Institution Archives, RU 007250, Box 1, Folder 3. SIA2012-6086.|
|Hand-drawn map in Richard Blackwelder's field book. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 96-099, Box 1, Folder 9. SIA2012-1257.||Killip's Adirondack Travelog, page 73. Smithsonian Institution Archives RU 007375, Box 2, Folder 10. SIA2012-8818.|
Hand drawn (or printed and hand colored) map of the glacial formations for Southern Christiana [Oslo], Norway. The colored regions indicate geological characteristics and also include location names. Map is written in Norwegian and dated 1859, composed by Norwegian Geologist Theodor Kjerulf. Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU007092, Box 1 Folder 2. Photograph taken by Lesley Parilla.
They vary from rough sketches in journals to commercially printed editions that are hand colored and annotated. They can be visually arresting as well as impart important information recorded by collectors. Unfortunately due to the range of sizes and physical condition, many of the maps present serious conservation and digitization challenges. Below is an example of the type of work conservators face in order to treat the maps. We don’t often get the chance to share them online. Many of the maps cataloged as part of field book collections must be seen in person.
Flattening map folds using localized humidification, completed by SIA Preservation staff. Credit: Janelle Baktin-Hall.
Maps present another challenge. Just as field books are sometimes separated from the specimens they describe, maps are sometimes separated from the field notes they document. This may occur because they represent a storage challenge for a department, or they are no longer seen as relevant to current research. As we’ve cataloged in the departments and divisions of NMNH, we’ve continually run into a volunteer run project from the Botany Department that is taking on this challenge. With it being National Volunteer Appreciation Month, we thought it a great chance to highlight their work. Now that many of the NMNH field books are cataloged, we have been able to reconnect to some of the maps that Jim Harle and his fellow volunteers have located during their efforts. We encourage you to search for some of the following names on their website at:
Family in front of their home at Urbina, Peru. The walls are of split bamboo boards. This material is much used for houses in the lowlands. On the uplands the material is mostly adobe but this house belongs to the railroad and the bamboo was brought from Guayaquil. Photograph taken by A. S. Hitchcock. SIA2011-0569.
By Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project
|Bartschella schumannii Britton & Rose. Collected by J. N. Nelson in Northwest Mexico, on March 23, 1911. USNM 638432. Courtesy of Botany Department, National Museum of Natural History.|
Recently, the Field Book Project made available some of botanist Joseph Nelson Rose’s field books for volunteers to transcribe on Smithsonian’s Transcription Center. To highlight this new content, the Field Book Project would like to provide readers with a little more background about the scientist and the man.
Over the last three years we have frequently written blog posts highlighting personal interests and interesting facets of the collectors’ lives. J. N. Rose was a botanist with the USDA and Smithsonian Institution. He traveled extensively through the American tropics, co-wrote important botanical texts, and collected extensively for the National Herbarium. When I prepared to write this piece, I anticipated the writing would be a fairly easy task.
Though he had a full and active career, I found little that described the scientist himself. What I did find, described a man that seemed to be well regarded and hardworking; he did not readily seek attention for himself. A good amount of his botanical work was even completed in collaboration with others. He co-wrote with at least 12 other botanists. The few articles I found that offered any personal description of Rose made me wish more information was available.
William Trelease wrote in a 1928 issue of Science about his colleagues’ response to the death of Rose. He wrote that the staff of the US National Museum was called by the Secretary of the Institution, Charles Greeley Abbot, to gather in order to show their appreciation.
To those of us who listened, as speakers rose here and there in the room, the kindly personality of a friend and a talented devotion of an able man in earnest work unfolded. To those of us that spoke, the sadness of the occasion was blended with the consolation born of the knowledge that a well-rounded-out life had come to ripe fruition.
The article continues to elaborate about the diligent and conscientious lifelong work of Rose, but gives few details about the personal life of a man and scientist who was obviously appreciated and admired by his colleagues.
This appearance of privacy continues in a piece written about Rose and his work with Nelson Lord Britton. Richard S. Cowan and Frans A. Stafleu, in a 1981 issue of Brittonia, mention that going through available archival and published materials provided little personal information about the man except for his devotion to his botanical work. What is available speaks to his evident “spirit of cooperation, his invariable tolerance and remarkably even temperament.”
His spirit of cooperation and belief in the importance of scientific discovery seems a perfect complement to the work of the transcription center volunteers. Transcribing makes these materials and their contents accessible and useable in a host of new ways. We encourage you to take a look through his and the other field books now available online from Smithsonian.
By Meghan Ferriter, Ph.D., Project Coordinator, Smithsonian Transcription Center
While it’s true that we think of the Transcription Center as a site of discovery, we don’t always anticipate which specific connections will be uncovered in the process of transcription.
Recently, I had the opportunity to learn about the delight of discovery directly from one of our volunteers. Siobhan Leachman and I talked via e-mail about her experiences transcribing from New Zealand – and what she had learned about Field Book Project researchers and expeditions. I asked Siobhan to share more about how she got hooked on transcribing, after she noted that she was a bit tentative at first.
SL: The project that really got me addicted was Vernon Bailey's field notes. I started on that not long after it was uploaded. The main reason I enjoyed that project so much was Vernon’s spare but descriptive writing style. He was writing about wolves, which to me are a lot more interesting than insects or plants, and was also describing the conditions he had to put up with on his trip as well as the people he came in contact with. It made his journal come alive. I worked solidly on his journal over one weekend and transcribed most of it in the space of three days with the help of some other enthusiastic volunteers. I was completely hooked and kept working on it as I wanted to know what happened next. For me it was like reading a movie script, I had images of “Dances with Wolves” going through my head, and there was always something interesting happening just on the next page.
|Page 3 of Vernon Bailey's field book, "Journal kept by Bailey on field trip to Wyoming and New Mexico, March 15-June 1906 ." Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU007267, Box 2, Folder 4.|
Siobhan previously shared that, after working on Vernon’s field notes, she was most interested in Florence Bailey, Vernon’s wife. Fortunately, Florence was also a researcher and ornithologist – if you’re a regular Field Book Project blog reader, you may recall a post written by Lesley Parilla about the couple and their long research careers. Before Florence’s field notes were available in the Transcription Center, however, Siobhan had the chance to work on Frederick Coville’s field notes. Very quickly, connections between the projects were becoming clear:
SL: Once I started doing more transcribing more names started to become familiar. Vernon Bailey mentioned C. Hart Merriam, who I’ve since learned is Florence Bailey’s brother. Florence of course being Vernon’s wife. Then there are Coville’s field notes, that also mention a person called Bailey, who I’m assuming will either be Florence or more likely Vernon. After a while I realised that these groups of people working in the same area, at the same time, and are of course colleagues. They mention each other in their diaries and journals. It makes it a more interesting experience for me if I know the background of the people I’m working on.
We also have Leonhard Stejneger’s field notes from an expedition with C. Hart Merriam in the Transcription Center! Right alongside our volunteers, we are learning about the social histories and political relationships outlined in the transcriptions. As the Field Book Project digitizes field notes for easier access to this wealth of scientific activity, it also gives us insight into daily lives in different regions of the world. Siobhan emphasized that the details drew deeper connections into these projects.
SL: I’ve enjoyed [Vernon Bailey and Florence Bailey] field journals. They are such descriptive writers who go to the trouble of describing their surroundings and in particular other people. Florence describes tuberculosis patients as well as their family members on a train. She eaves drops constantly on conversations and is very good at giving you a real image of what it was like. You could almost be sitting next to her on the train. …[Also in her] description of San Francisco in 1907. I found it fascinating that she didn’t mention the word earthquake at all, but went into great detail about the devastation of the fires on the city.
|Page 29 of Florence Merriam Bailey's field book, "Journal, California, 1907." Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU007417, Box 1.|
We love the idea of taking a train ride with some of the Field Book Project scientists – a viewpoint you’ll get if you help review Florence’s notes in the Transcription Center. You might take on Siobhan’s thoughtful advice on transcribing from the “volunpeer” perspective.
SL: My advice for any new volunteer transcriber is find a project you love. If you are anything like me, you’ll feel like you are making wonderful new friends, even though the people whose work you are transcribing have died long before you were born. I would have loved to have invited Vernon and Florence to dinner. And I know they would have loved New Zealand. Particularly Florence as we’ve got so many native birds she’d never have seen. She would have been fascinated.
Indeed, the Baileys would surely be fascinated by New Zealand natural life. Many thanks to Siobhan for sharing her story. We are grateful to our dedicated volunteers and always welcome new members to our community. Have you transcribed in the Transcription Center? What have you discovered? Get in touch with us via e-mail or on Twitter and share your story.
Doe with fawns about 1 hour old at Up & Down Ranch, 10 miles northwest of Ft. Davis, Texas, May 28, 1947. Photograph documents observations of pronghorn in Texas by Helmut Buechner in 1947. SIA2014-00023.
|Cypress Swamp in South Carolina, 1898. Photograph is from personal papers of Florence Merriam Bailey, documenting travel in the vicinity of Summerville, South Carolina. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Record Unit 007417, Box 2, Folder "Photograph of F.M.B., undated". SIA2014-01855.|
At the Field Book Project, we've come across married couples that worked together in the field, but few quite like Vernon Orlando Bailey (1864-1942) and Florence Merriam Bailey (1863-1948). Not only did both enjoy long, fruitful careers in their respective fields, but they also have their own field documentation. Vernon Bailey worked as a Field Biologist for the US Biological Survey, and wrote and collected extensively for the organization. Florence Bailey was known for her study and writing in the field of ornithology.
The Smithsonian Transcription Center recently added field books from both of these individuals to those awaiting volunteer input. In order to highlight this couple's unique contributions, the Field Book Project has launched a new Flickr set of images from their personal papers.
|Kangaroo rat specimen, Continental, Arizona, 1921. Photograph taken by Sterling Bunnell for Vernon Orlando Bailey. Bailey worked as a field naturalist for the United States Department of Agriculture Bureau of Biological Survey. Bailey was particularly interested in rodents, especially Dipodomys, or kangaroo rat. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Record Unit 007267, Box 5 Folder 12. SIA2011-1399.|
Both Florence and Vernon advocated for the wildlife they studied. Much of Florence Merriam Bailey’s field work and writing focused on the protection of birds, and she was a strong proponent for the use of binoculars instead of shotguns to observe them. Vernon Bailey had a long-held concern for humane animal population control. He went so far as to design and manufacture more humane traps and educate the public on their use. Images include field photographs Vernon Bailey used in relation to his work for more humane trapping techniques. Images from the Florence Bailey field book document her field work and travels.
By Kira Cherrix, Digital Imaging Specialist, Smithsonian Institution Archives
|Rafinesque's notes during his trip from Philadelphia to Kentucky in 1818 shows the Black Dotted Perch and the Ohio Red-Eye, as described by John James Audubon. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 007250, Box 1, Folder 3. SIA2012-6097.|
Constantine Rafinesque was born in a suburb of Constantinople in 1783. From an early age, he showed great interest in the fields of botany and ichthyology. He first visited America from 1802 to 1805, and then returned to make the United States his permanent residence in 1815. Rafinesque was considered by many of his colleagues to be quite eccentric and his peculiar personality often got on their nerves. In 1818, Constantine Rafinesque stayed at the home of John James Audubon for three weeks. He was determined to find new species of flora and fauna, and was overjoyed every time he came across one of Audubon’s drawings of a specimen he had never seen before.
|The fish depicted on the right-hand page is the White-Eyes Barbot, as described to Rafinesque by Audubon. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 007250, Box 1, Folder 3. SIA2012-6096.|
At one point, Audubon decided to play a trick on Rafinesque. Audubon began to add drawings of imaginary fish to his stacks of other drawings. When Rafinesque would come across these drawings, he would copy the drawings down in his notebook and ask Audubon for additional descriptive information about the fish. The most famous of these “fake fish” was called the Devil-Jack Diamond fish. In his book, Icthyologia Ohiensis, he describes the fish as being four to ten feet long with bulletproof scales. Rafinesque claimed to have seen one at a distance, but noted that they sometimes lie motionless on the surface and appear to look like logs.
By the time Rafinesque left, Audubon had convinced him of the existence of ten different imaginary fish. When Rafinesque published his findings, he gave Audubon credit for all of the fake species, often stating “I have not seen this species, but Mr. Audubon has communicated me a drawing of it.” At one point in his book, Rafinesque seems to doubt the accuracy of Audubon’s drawing stating “This genus rests altogether upon the authority of Mr. Audubon, who has presented me a drawing of the only species belonging to it. It appears very distinct if his drawing be correct; but it requires to be examined again. Is it only a Sturgeon incorrectly drawn?”
|These two pages depict four fish as described to Rafinesque by Audubon. Starting from the top left, the first are the Flatnose Doublefin, the Bigmouth Sturgeon, the Devil-Jack Diamond fish, and the Buffalo Carp Sucker. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 007250, Box 1, Folder 3. SIA2012-6089.|
Ultimately, this practical joke backfired on Audubon. He was still an up-and-coming ornithologist at the time, so when he went to publish his book years after Rafinesque’s book had come out, his critics claimed that he might be making up several of the birds contain within it. They believed that if he could provide such detailed descriptions of fake fish, then what was to stop him from creating imaginary birds? It is said that Audubon later admitted to a friend that his practical joke had cost him a great deal.
Audubon’s Fake Species
Erwin Hinckley Barbour, J. L. Wortman, and James William Gidley on paleontological expeditions in various locations throughout the United States for the Division of Vertebrate Mammals, 1900-1935. From lantern slides found in the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology Records. SIA2011-1417.
By Kira Cherrix, Digital Imaging Specialist, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Vernon Orlando Bailey hated being away from home and that is likely why I found a photograph of his wife, Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey, tucked into the back of one of his field books. The black-and-white photograph is dated March 1900, and was taken just a few months after their wedding. This is an interesting find because it is located in Bailey’s field notes from his trip to Oregon and northern California in Autumn of 1909, nearly ten years after the photograph was originally taken.
|Photograph of Florence Merriam Bailey found in field book of Vernon Bailey. Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA 007267, Box 2, Folder 14. SIA2013-10188.|
Spring is finally here! It’s been a long winter for much of the United States, so we at the Field Book Project wanted to celebrate Spring's arrival. What better way is there than with images from our collections?
The Flickr set includes photographs taken by Helmut Karl Buechner during field work he completed in Texas, May 1947. These images document his observations of Pronghorn shortly have their birth.
Doe with fawns about 1 hour old at Up & Down Ranch, 10 miles northwest of Ft. Davis, Texas, May 28, 1947. (8). Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 7279, Box 30, Folder 10 (envelope 4). SIA2014-00023.
Need more of a cute fix? Then we encourage you to check out a few of our other favorite field book photographs, highlighting wildlife on the younger side…
Tiger cub being fed by Lucile Mann, during the National Geographic Society-Smithsonian Institution Expedition to the Dutch East Indies, 1937. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 007293, Box 23, Folder 1. SIA2012-3234.
Wedgetail Shearwater #47, 7 days old, Kure Atoll (undated). Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 000245, Box 222, Folder 15, Envelope 1. SIA2013-07695.
Seals #286 and #287, Kure Atoll, March 12, 1964. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 000245, Box 223, Folder 3. SIA2013-07697.
Baby penguin. Taken during Waldo Schmitt's collecting during the Palmer Peninsula Survey 1962-1963. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU007231, Box 140, Folder. SIA2012-0662.
Young coconut plant and Edward Stewart. Photograph was taken while Hitchcock was on a collecting trip to British Guiana [Guyana]. SIA2011-0551.
Photograph of birds on antenna supports for LORAN tower on Sand-Johnston Island, 1963, and was part of field documentation for the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program, on Sand-Johnston Island. SIA2013-08806.
Have you seen what Smithsonian staff and volunteers have made possible lately?
Last year, Smithsonian Institution launched the Beta version of its Transcription Center. Since its inception, Smithsonian departments have been adding projects for volunteers to transcribe. Several of those projects are materials cataloged by the Field Book Project. The number of projects has grown significantly in recent months, and includes the winner of our handwriting contest, Martin H. Moynihan!
We’re excited to report that, once a project is 100% complete, you’ll be able to download it as a PDF from the project page. One of my favorite parts of cataloging is the range of information I’ve been able to read in these primary resources. Now volunteers can do the same, a task made easier by their collaboration in transcribing and reviewing.
If you haven’t visited the Transcription Center, we encourage you to take a look. Try transcribing something or read a completed project to learn more about science in that field. Your transcription efforts not only make the materials easier to read, but also make them more accessible to future researchers.
Lastly…to the volunteers who’ve already been working on these materials, thanks for all your hard work!
Helicopter fire on McMurdo Base, Antarctica, prior to arrival of emergency response team.Taken during Waldo Schmitt's collecting during the Palmer Peninsula Survey 1962-1963. SIA2012-0665.
Fregata minor [Great Frigatebird] 18 days old, on Christmas Island [Kiritimati], Kiribati, 1967. The chick was photographed to document its development, as part of field work completed during the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program. SIA2013-07653.
By Kira Cherrix, Digital Imaging Specialist, Smithsonian Institution Archives
I have seen many field books that contain hand drawn maps of important areas, but none of them have been as detailed as the ones found in Richard Blackwelder’s field book from his trip to the West Indies in March to July of 1936. Blackwelder’s maps usually include rivers, valleys, and towns as well as routes he took while visiting each location. He also includes the specimen numbers for the items collected in the sites he visited. This particular page has a drawing of Dominica with a scale of 1 inch = 4.5 miles.
|Hand-drawn map in Richard Blackwelder's field book. Smithsonian Institution Archive. Acc. 96-099, Box 1, Folder 9. SIA2012-1257.|
Sandstone at butte fault line, Chuar Valley [Grand Canyon]. Sketch documents field work of Charles D. Walcott in the Chuar Valley of the Grand Canyon [Arizona] c. 1883. Drawing is likely sketched by B. L. Young. RU 007004, Charles D. Walcott Collection, 1851-1940 and undated; Box 32, Folder 8. SIA2012-9661.
William F. Foshag (1894-1956) was a curator in the joined the US National Museum's Division of Mineralogy and Petrology. Foshag's research was primarily devoted to the study of the geology and mineralogy of Mexico. Between 1926 and 1941, Foshag made several collecting trips to Mexico under the auspices of the Smithsonian's Roebling Fund. While serving as a representative of the United States Geological Survey in its cooperative work with the Mexican government, during this time, Foshag was able to study the eruption of the Paricutin Volcano in 1943. He made subsequent visits to Paricutin in 1944 and 1945 to observe the volcano.
|Taken by William F. Foshag while researching the development of a volcanic cone called Parícutin. The volcano emerged in Dionisio Pulido's, a Tarascan Indian, corn field in Parícutin, Mexico, located 200 miles west of Mexico City, March 23, 1943. Smthsonian Institution Archives. RU 007281, Box 7, Folder Photographs of Parícutin #F2-#F14, 1943 Photographs of Parícutin #F2-#F14, 1943. SIA2009-0856.|
About 15 minutes after our arrival, a spot, about one meter across became more incandescent, changing from the glowing red of the lava cracks to a brilliant orange yellow, and began to work like leavening bread, and then to slowly flow. Slowly the moving area spread, and within five minutes the entire cliff, for the width of five meters had melted into a flow of brilliant orange.
--William Foshag while traversing the sides of Paricutin Volcano in Mexico in 1943.
This is the third of a joint blog series by the Field Book Project (FBP) and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), showcasing examples of digital connections between collectors, field book catalog records, and the resulting publications of collecting events.
In 1878 the US Congress was investigating rivalries between four surveys (Powell, Hayden, King, and Wheeler Surveys) that had been sent west to study the nation’s resources and search for a potential route for a railroad to the west coast. The investigation made it clear to Congress that the current system was not working. So Congress turned to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for guidance. NAS approached to experts across the country for input, including survey leaders Powell and King. Their subsequent recommendations, sent to Congress, provided the main structure for the legislation that created the United States Geology Survey (USGS).
|William H. Dall, c. 1910. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 000095, Box 6, Folder 42. SIA2009-4237.|
In 1879, the USGS was established with the mission to provide: “reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life." The USGS had a mission, but now that they needed the people with the vision to make it happen. Clarence was named director, but left in 1881. Powell became the second director (1881-1894) and was an important force shaping the new agency. The USGS began sending staff into the field shortly after its creation. Staff surveyed and collected in national parks as well as local neighborhoods. Their field books show a dizzying variety of collecting. The agency’s earliest field staff included individuals who would make important contributions to the fields of geology and paleontology. People like Charles Walcott, known for his discovery of the Burgess Shale, worked for the USGS 1879 – 1907 (eventually becoming its director in 1894), and conducted field work in the Grand Canyon among many other locations in the country. William Healey Dall worked for USGS 1884-1925, conducting and spent significant time in Alaska for the Agency as well as the US Coast and Geodetic Survey; the work helped establish him as a well-respected expert in the geology of the state.
|Charles Walcott's field notes from October 15 - November 3, 1879, Page 19. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 007004, Charles D. Walcott Collection, 1851-1940 and undated; Box 32, Folder 1. SIA2012-9643.|
Other staff may not be so well known, like Lester Ward, but their field books document important routine field work with a specificity of detail that is fascinating. Specimen location information and interviews with individuals who found them sometimes list neighborhoods or street intersections. We encourage you to take a look at and compare the before and after, the field work and the conclusions drawn from them.
In November of 2011, the USGS Library joined the BHL consortium. Describing themselves as "one of the world’s largest libraries dedicated to the earth and natural sciences," they have contributed over 15,000 pages of digital content to the BHL collection.
Unidentified child with tiger cub. Photograph documents Lucile and William Mann's participation in the National Geographic Society-Smithsonian Institution Expedition to the Dutch East Indies, 1937. SIA2012-3236.
Red-tailed Tropicbird chick on Kure Atoll (c. 1960's) was photographed as part of field work completed during the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program. SIA2013-07694.