Mountain range in Montana with geological annotations, 1905, from fieldwork of Charles D. Walcott. Smithsonian Instution Archives. SIA RU 7004, Charles D. Walcott Collection, 1851-1940 and undated. Box 30, Folder 11. SIA2014-06929.
Mountain range in Montana with geological annotations, 1905, from fieldwork of Charles D. Walcott. Smithsonian Instution Archives. SIA RU 7004, Charles D. Walcott Collection, 1851-1940 and undated. Box 30, Folder 11. SIA2014-06929.
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?
Illustration documents M. Moynihan's observations of cephalopods (squid), 1981. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 01-096, Martin H. Moynihan Papers, 1952-1996. Box 4, Folder 3. SIA2014-03712.
We’re excited to announce our latest Flickr set from the field work of Charles D. Walcott in Montana during the summers of 1904 and 1905. This set of images highlights the work of Walcott who was the fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and perhaps best known for his discovery of the Burgess Shale fossils in Canada.
|Mountain range in Montana with geological annotations (2). Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 7004, Charles D. Walcott Collection, 1851-1940 and undated. Box 30, Folder 11. SIA2014-06931.|
Walcott was unique in the way he utilized photography in his field work. He not only used photos to document his finds, but eventually used them to choose field sites. By the time he discovered the Burgess Shale, Walcott was utilizing panorama photographs that he took with a specially built camera for the purpose.
Images in this set provide a unique overlap of his field note format choices (text, photograph, sketch) for specific sites. We encourage you to compare the photos, their annotations, the caption details, and his narrative descriptions and sketches.
|Field notes of Charles D. Walcott for June 29, 1905. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 7004, Charles D. Walcott Collection, 1851-1940 and undated. Box 30, Folder 11. SIA2014-06933.|
To learn more about Walcott, explore his field book records now available on Smithsonian Collection Search Center, field book content on Smithsonian’s Transcription Center, the finding aid for his personal papers in Smithsonian Institution Archives Record Unit 007004, or his publications in Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Florence Merriam Bailey with unidentified individuals in Lake Placid, New York. Caption on reverse side lists "Edgan [sic], Husteds, FMB, etc [sic]." Undated. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU007417 Florence Merriam Bailey Papers, 1865-1942, Box 2, Folder "Photograph of F.M.B., undated". SIA2014-01845.
By Lesley Parilla, Cataloger, Field Book Project
|Page from field book of Donald Erdman, that includes a recipe for pickled herring. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 007428, Box 1, Folder 1.|
Food is often a topic in the field books. It’s clear that for many collectors, food is an important part of the day, and worth recording. We’ve found grocery lists, restaurant menus, descriptions of meals, and even recipes. Collectors’ opinions can be surprisingly strong when describing their daily intake. We thought we’d share a few of our more recent foodie reference finds.
Several field collectors show an interest in local eating habits. In “Field journal of Henry Cushier Raven in Singapore, Java and Borneo and vicinity, dated 22 February 1912 to 2 November 1914” Raven begins to use local terminology for meals (makan). Entomologist Edward Chapin refers to eating “onces”, a Chilean term for tea time, nineteen times in his field book documenting his work in Chile during 1945.
Others voice their opinions on local favorite dishes. Doris Cochran states in her “Travelog of 1962-1963 South American trip”, that:
[Jan. 20, 1963] The highlight of the day was the 8PM dinner at El Pulpo, the little Italian restaurant on the corner below our hotel. Boiled octopus (el pulpo) with a sauce of olive oil & hot red pepper -much over-rated, I think, as it was quite rubbery in texture & flavor, but also rather like the muscle of an oyster.
In “Notes accompanying collection of useful plants made by W. J. Fisher at [Kodiak] in 1899” Fisher is so fond of a local fruit he acclaims it “our most esteemed berry.”
Our most esteemed berry. Makes delicious jelly. The Aleuts add a small portion of these berries to their preserved Saranas to impart to it the fragrance of these berries. On account of their infrequency these berries command at least quadruple the price of all other berries.
Perhaps the most surprising is how dramatically meals in during field collecting trips can vary. In “Colombian trip, 1944”, Ellsworth P. Killip describes the following meal.
Instituto all day. Perez Arbelaez came about 7, giving me a few specimens and lending his copy of the Mutis paintings index. Then a drink at the Grenada and a very big dinner on [[him ?]] at the French restaurant, Normandie. 15 plates of hors d'oeuvres followed by 15 more of mainly meats. Soup & camembert[sic] followed. Was too completely stuffed to feel like doing anything more so went home and to bed.
These quotes were found in recently transcribed field books. Once again, we’d like to thank the Smithsonian Transcription Center volunpeers for making the content accessible.
Do you feel a strong need to stay “connected”? It seems some of our collectors felt the same way. Richard Eliot Blackwelder (1909-2001), a zoologist, specialized in entomology and the principles of zoology. Educated at Stanford University (B.A. 1931, Ph.D. 1934), he spent much of his career on the curatorial staff of the Division of Insects of the United States National Museum (USNM, later to become the National Museum of Natural History or NMNH), specializing in the morphology, classification, and nomenclature of the Staphylinidae or “rove beetle.” He was in the West Indies with the Smithsonian's Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship from 1935 to 1938. His journal from the period [Journal of Richard E. Blackwelder, West Indies, vol. 2] includes an interesting insight into his own need to stay “connected.”
Puerto Rico [Page] 24, X-15-35
When we first landed in Puerto Rico our radio didn't work very well so I changed all the tubes. Since then we have gotten good reception at night, but can't pick up anything but local stations in the daytime. The following ^[[long-wave]] stations were received in San Juan: WKAQ and WNEL, San Juan, P.R.; WSB, Atlanta, Ga.; WBT, Charlotte, N.C.; WSM, Nashville, Tenn.; WHAS, Louisville, Ky.; WCAU, Philadelphia; WEAF and WABC, New York; WBZ, Boston; WGY, Schenectady; WHAM, Rochester; KDKA, Pittsburgh; WLW, Cincinnati; WTAM, Cleveland; WJR, Detroit; WGN, Chicago; WHO, Des Moines; XEFO, Mexico City.
On short wave: COCH, Havana, Cuba; YV3BC, Caracas, Venezuela; W3XAU, Philadelphia; W8XK, Pittsburgh; W2XAF, Schenectady; GSB, London, England; FYA, Paris, France; DJD, Berlin, Germany.
When we were in Jamaica we heard on short-wave: W8XK, W2XAF, DJA, GSE, FYA, and also YV11BMO, Maracaibo, Venezuela; HJ4ABC, ? (Span.Am.); HKE, Bogota, Colombia; C09JC, Santiago, Cuba; and H84ABA, Medellin, Colombia.
In Haiti heard also, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Frequently we can get a program better on the long-wave, as from WLW, but sometimes the static is too noisy for anything but the shortwave stations.
To learn more about Richard Blackwelder, see his field books and records on Smithsonian’s Collections Search Center and Smithsonian’s Transcription Center, as well as his publications on Biodiversity Heritage Library.
We are excited to announce that more field books cataloged and digitized as part of the Field Book Project are being added to BHL. This week we encourage you to take a look at field notes from William Healey Dall and Ellsworth Killip.
New field books will be added weekly throughout September, so we encourage you to check in and see what’s new!
2466. Rio Zula, at Ocotlan [sic] (2 miles up the river). Photograph documents field work of E. A. Goldman and E. W. Nelson in Mexico, 1890-1910. SIA RU 7364, Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman Collection, circa 1873-1946 and undated. Box 31, Folder 17. SIA2014-03182.
The Field Book Project is pleased to welcome to new members to our team: Julia Blase, Field Book Project Manager, and Andrea Hall, Field Book Project conservator.
|Julia Blase, 2014. Courtesy of ??|
Julia will be managing day-to-day project operations and coordinating communications between project partners. She has an MLIS from Denver University, an MMS from the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, and a BA from Duke University. She comes to the Field Book Project from the National Digital Stewardship Residency, a fellowship program with the Library of Congress, where she spent the last year completing a digital asset management analysis, needs assessment, and strategic plan for the National Security Archive.
|Andrea Hall, 2013. Courtesy of Kirsten Tyree.|
Andrea Hall will be providing conservation assessment and care for field book collections. She originally worked on the Project as an intern in the Fall of 2013. She attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio where she received a B.S. in Biology and has honed her conservation skills at Bowling Green State University Library, Botany Department of the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, the Preservation Department of the University of Virginia Libraries just to name a few. We are thrilled to have her rejoining the team in her new role.
Phoenix Island, April 15, 1966. A Brown booby nest with two eggs can be seen in the left foreground of this photograph of the beach and surf on Phoenix Island. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU 000245 Box 230 Folder 43. SIA2011-1367.
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.
Edward Chapin collecting specimens with Alicia. “Edward A. Chapin - Field notebook, Colombia, 1941-1942.” Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 11-085, Box 1 Folder 2.
Edward and Clara Chapin; Hernando Osorno M.; Doña Isabel and her three daughters, Isabelita, María Teresa and Alicía. “Edward A. Chapin - Field notebook, Colombia, 1941-1942.” Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 11-085, Box 1 Folder 2.
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!
Gulls on coast of United Kingdom, 1952-1996. Photograph documents the behavioral observations of gulls (laridae) by M. Moynihan in the United Kingdom. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Acc. 01-096, Box 1, Folder 37 (Envelope 2). SIA2014-01183.
By Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project Cataloger
|A. Remington Kellogg on a Field Trip in Arizona. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9516, Box 1, Watson M. Perrygo Oral History Interviews. 84-8990.|
When I began my work in the Department of Paleobiology, my department contact was kind enough to show me some of the specimens relating to the first field book collection I would catalog. I was to begin with the field books of A. Remington Kellogg (1892-1969) [link], an intriguing figure, who has a substantial history with the Smithsonian Institution. He eventually became the Director of the U.S. National Museum and Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian from 1958 to 1962.
The specimens in question need little introduction and are eye-catching to say the least—they were 100,000 year old dung specimens from ground sloths. They are the result of Kellogg’s field work at Rampart Cave in Arizona during 1942, towards the end of his career in the field. I cataloged his work chronologically, so the related field book was the last one I described. This meant, to my delight, I had some time to do a little digging into the story behind this unique specimen.
Scat can be a wonderful source of information on wildlife and its environment. I was excited to learn more about the related field work and, as I looked into the history of what was recorded in Kellogg’s documentation, the story turned out to be more nuanced than I expected.
When Kellogg went to Rampart Cave to study sloth fossils and skeletal remains of other wildlife in the area, he was accompanied by Watson M. Perrygo [link]. Perrygo was a taxidermist with the Museum but also collected extensively in the field with Smithsonian staff.
I learned quickly that Kellogg had a terse style of recording and usually included only information that strictly related to his work. Therefore, the field book content offers little information about personal difficulties or challenges he might have faced at the time. Perrygo, on the other hand, generously gave his time for an oral history interview on Rampart Cave with Pan Henson, Smithsonian’s Senior Historian. And it was through a conversation with Pam Henson that I learned that both Kellogg and Perrygo suffered from a serious respiratory infection during their work in Rampart Cave.
In the interview, Watson Perrygo explained that staff working at the site experienced breathing problems from the onset of field work. They began to use respirators, but their equipment did little to help the situation. In spite of these challenges Perrygo stated:
“What we did was just a drop in the bucket. We took several squares, five foot square samples. But it should be eventually finished, that might take. Someday some young, upcoming scientist, full of ambition, what have you, will go there, and then I hope he'll find some marvelous stuff, and he probably will. But when you go in the cave, you think any minute you’re going to meet a sloth coming around the corner. You really would—just the rocks, the parts where they rubbed on, and the manure allover just like it was just a couple days old lying all over the place. It's fantastic; I mean, you just think any minute they're going to walk right in—just meet one face to face.”
Though Kellogg did not record information about his personal health, the travel details that he recorded in detail make it clear that work at the site was a anything but easy. And at last, towards the end of the field book, Kellogg included a telling figure: he estimated that 2,650 cubic feet of sloth dung had been excavated during the 26 days of work.
As for the rest of story…
During my research I found out a little more about the value of the sloth scat specimens. In 1976, Rampart Cave caught fire. According to a New York Times Article (March 11, 1977 by Boyce Rensberger) the cave, which was noted to be “one of the world’s richest known sources of fossils and other evidence of life in the ice age,” smoldered for months. National Park Service staff eventually decided to seal off the cave in an attempt to extinguish the fire by cutting off oxygen, after finding that using water weakened the limestone ceiling of the cave. The specimen damage was extensive. According to a 1992 article in the American Society of Parasitologists, two thirds of the speciments were destroyed by the fire.
It may appear to be “only” animal scat, but it is in fact a rich source of information on Ice Age life, an item that people risked their health to collect and their lives to save from destruction, and a specimen that is all the more precious because of the loss of its place of origin.
3. -Q. macrocarpa var. depressa. Prairie border. S.W. corner of Lyon county, Iowa, circa 1878-1936. Photograph documents Bohumil Shimek's geological and botanical field work, 1878-1936. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU 007082, Box 5, Folder 3. SIA2012-3228.
|Fastener found in Florence Bailey's Journal for Bermuda, March 1890. Smithsonian Institution Archives RU 007417 box 1 folder 5. Photography courtesy of Breann Young.|
By Breann Young, Conservation Intern, Smithsonian Institution Archives
During the past couple of months, I have been interning at the Smithsonian Institution Archives in the conservation lab. I am an undergraduate student at Kutztown University and my work here, for the most part, has been to absorb as much information as I can about book and paper conservation, as I am still new to the processes and techniques of this field. One of the first assignments I received was to go through a couple boxes of field books and papers belonging to Lawrence Walkinshaw and remove the numerous damaging staples within them.
Walkinshaw (1904-1993) was a 20th century dentist who was also a leading expert on cranes in and around the Michigan area. He is credited with recording some of the first field surveys of cranes and other Michigan birds. He wrote three published books and kept large quantities of personal field books. Interestingly, he often adapted his field books very specifically to his needs, including using staples to hold large sections of pages or photographs together within one particular spiral bound book. One of the staples had even, somehow been placed inside the metal coil and latched on to four pages, a situation I had never seen before and which still makes me wonder about how it could have happened. Of course staples, while helpful to Walkinshaw, are damaging to paper over time, and create plenty of work for conservation staff like my colleagues at Smithsonian Archives.
As my internship progressed, I was able to gain enough experience to move from staple removing to mounting fragile botanical specimens. Field researchers often picked samples of the plants that they were researching and pressed them in between the pages of their notebooks or placed them in separate folders. Surprisingly, preserving plants often does not require any special chemicals or special paper. They just need to be pressed under weight between two pieces of paper and left to dry for two to three weeks.
One of the very first field books I worked on was Florence Bailey’s journal from Bermuda, dating to around 1890. Florence Bailey (1863-1948) was a pioneer naturalist who dedicated her life to the preservation of birds and their way of life. She was a very active woman in a male-dominated profession, and accomplished a lot of firsts for women in the scientific field.
Botanical specimen found in Florence Bailey's Journal for Bermuda, March 1890. Smithsonian Institution Archives RU 007417 box 1 folder 5. Photography courtesy of Breann Young.
|Botanical specimen found in Florence Bailey's Journal for Bermuda, March 1890. Photography courtesy of Breann Young.|
|Botanical specimen found in Florence Bailey's Journal for Bermuda, March 1890. Photography courtesy of Breann Young.|
In these field books, the botanical specimens are attached by small pins that are poked through the page twice, securing the small plant into place. Unfortunately for conservators, these pins are a challenge because those pin holes destroy portions of manuscript on the other side of the paper. In other cases, these pins are poked through multiple pages and possibly rust, getting stuck in place. Now with a beginner like myself, this work can be difficult because I had to be very aware of not damaging both the incredibly fragile plant and the paper itself. Only once did I have to deal with a particularly tricky pin, and I was thankful to have the help of my supervisor. All the other pins that I removed were fully cooperative. After the pins were all successfully dislodged from their homes, I mounted the plants onto a sturdy card stock and placed them in protective folders, where they would be preserved safely for years to come.
From removing small little staples to pins holding a fragile plant, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while interning here at the Smithsonian is to balance problem solving while caring for fragile objects. Every day in the lab is completely different. You never know what you’re going to encounter and what problems may be ahead of you, waiting to be solved. That’s the beauty of conservation.
A lime kiln, near Uyuni, southern Bolivia, 1923-1924. Smithsonian Institution Archives. SIA RU 000229. SIA2011-0572.
We’re excited to announce our latest record update to Smithsonian’s Collections Search Center. There are now 481 digitized field books available online. These include newly digitized field books from collectors such as William Healey Dall, Vernon Bailey, and F. Raymond Fosberg.
We are also pleased to make available the first catalog records for collections in the Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, covering the work of Frank Whitmore and Remington Kellogg. The Paleobiology records will enhance the field book catalog records that already exist in Division of Mammals and Smithsonian Institution Archives for these two collectors.
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.