By Andrea Hall, Field Book Project Conservator
As part of the Field Book Project’s mission to increase accessibility to field book content, the conservation team conducts condition surveys of field notebooks in various divisions at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). These surveys give us a better understanding of a collection’s particular conservation needs, helping us determine which items need stabilization treatment in order to be safely handled, which need better housing for long term storage, and which are ready to be digitized and transcribed. While surveying the field books in the Division of Birds, Chris Milensky, a Museum Specialist in the Division, pointed out a wonderful collection of letters, specimen cards, and field notebooks of Professor D.B. Burrows, a collector and student of bird eggs and nests.
|Chris Milensky holding the Burrows papers|
The D.B. Burrows collection is exactly the kind of thing that gets us excited here at the Field Book Project. As it turned out, this collection had not yet being cataloged by FBP team member Lesley Parilla, and was also in need of new housing and conservation treatment, Lesley began by creating a cataloging record for the papers and field books and at the same time performed some initial rehousing, placing the items in labeled, archival-quality folders and document boxes.
|Lesley rehoused the papers into folders and document boxes.|
Once Lesley began cataloging, she brought the newly rehoused items to me here in the conservation lab. In this case, the conservation treatment of the D.B. Burrows papers occurs simultaneously with cataloging as many of the items have inaccessible information which requires treatment before it can be accessed and added to the catalog record. For example, there are many letters in their original envelopes which need to be carefully unfolded, flattened, and then rehoused before Lesley can read them and incorporate details about their authors, dates, and recipients into a catalog entry
|Rehousing for D. B. Burrow correspondence.|
The treatment and cataloging of the D.B. Burrows papers is ongoing and will take some time, particularly with the large volume of correspondence that requires, as mentioned above, very careful treatment in order to be conserved. However, when they are complete, the D.B. Burrows papers will be digitized and sent to the Smithsonian Transcription Center, where digital volunteers and citizen archivists can help transcribe D.B. Burrow’s writings. Not much information is available about Burrows online, and we here at the Field Book Project look forward to adding to the digital body of knowledge about this interesting scholar!
Curious to learn more? See the first catalog records from this collection, now available on Smithsonian's Collections Search Center.