Dr. Berthold Laufer (left) with two men and one boy. All in Chinese costume or dress. Hankow, ca. 1904. Tea cups and pipe on table. © The Field Museum, A98299

In 1904, after returning to the Museum from a solo, grueling, and fairly astonishing three-year expedition to China, the young Sinologist Berthold Laufer began to analyze and write up his findings. He had managed to collect over 7,500 objects, roughly half the current Chinese collections, on a budget of only $18,000. This is even more extraordinary considering that his total expenditure would not buy even a modest piece of Ming porcelain today. 

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This post was originally published on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog, March 24, 2016.

John Bartram was born in Marple, Pennsylvania in 1699. Although he received limited formal education, he eventually distinguished himself as one of the leading botanists of his day. Through an early and intense interest in botany, he collected rare and useful plants and seeds throughout the colonies which he provided to the gentlemen of Europe, an opportunity which arose from his close friendship with the English botanist, Peter Collinson.

He also established one of the finest botanic gardens of the colonial period in Kingsessing (now part of the park system in south Philadelphia). He grew dozens of species of trees, shrubs, and other plants collected on his travels. He even experimented with breeding and selection of cultivars to meet a demand abroad for exotic plants. His botanical supply business was so successful that it provided the income and incentive that enabled him to travel around the colonies and to Florida in search of new specimens.

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This post was originally published on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog, July 6, 2017.

The American Museum of Natural History selected two unique sets of material to digitize for the CLIR BHL Field Notes Project: field books from the Whitney South Sea Expedition and the Archbold Expeditions. These were two long-running undertakings to systematically explore and collect the flora and fauna of Oceania. Both contributed invaluable specimens to the scientific research and exhibition collections at AMNH. We recently completed digitization of the Whitney South Sea Expedition field notes and are thrilled to have commenced work on the Archbold material. Arguably, the most rewarding aspect of participating in this project is raising awareness of some rather remarkable individuals and expeditions. One example is the 2nd Archbold Expedition to New Guinea. We recently digitized leader Richard Archbold’s journal from that journey, which helps shine a light on this particularly fascinating story.

Archbold Expeditions is a corporation originally founded and led by Richard Archbold. It funded a research collection and staff at the AMNH Department of Mammalogy and sponsored a series of scientific collecting journeys to New Guinea and northern Australia. Heir to a substantial fortune, Archbold was a collector, explorer, ecologist, photographer, mountaineer, and pilot. As a youth he developed a love of nature and technology which carried over into all his future endeavors. He was a Research Associate at AMNH since his participation as photographer and mammalogist in the Mission zoologique franco-anglo-américaine à Madagascar, an experience which would directly inspire him to continue exploration work. He led the first three of the Archbold New Guinea Expeditions himself, and in 1940 founded the Archbold Biological Station in Florida. This research station and Archbold Expeditions were associated with AMNH until the 1980s. The Archbold Biological Station is still vitally active today.

Archbold excelled at organization and planning, recognizing needs and filling them. He regularly made use of and adapted the most current technology and also sought after the best scientists and personnel for his expeditions.

Some of the 2nd Archbold Expedition participants, including scientific party Austin Rand, G. H. H. Tate and Leonard Brass. All three participated in multiple Archbold Expeditions.
“WH2; Papua, Oroville Camp; Juhlstedt, Rand, Tate, Archbold, Burke, Healy, Brass.” Archbold Expeditions Collection, Department of Mammalogy, AMNH.

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Eight of the 940 watercolor illustrations of fungi by Lewis David von Schweinitz in the Academy of Natural Sciences Archives.   Ewell Sale Stewart Library and Archives Coll. no. 437

Eight of the 940 watercolor illustrations of fungi by Lewis David von Schweinitz in the Academy of Natural Sciences Archives. Ewell Sale Stewart Library and Archives Coll. no. 437

It is quite probable that the facts of distribution, life history, and economic status may finally prove to be of more far-reaching value, than whatever information is obtainable exclusively from the specimens themselves.”

From: “The Methods and Uses of a Research Museum” by Joseph Grinnell (1915), Popular Science Monthly 77: 163–169.

Last week’s annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists provided a great opportunity for three CLIR recipients to meet about our proposed panel for the Hidden Collections Symposium in March. Christina Fidler, Museum Archivist, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley and Rusty Russell, Collection Manager, Botany, Smithsonian Institution and I were joined by Tim White who was unable to be there in person. Tim is Director of Collections and Operations at the Peabody Museum of Natural History and we all connected via Rusty’s mobile phone set to speaker, as we sat on the lawn outside the conference hotel.  What brought two archivists and two collection managers together?  Besides being CLIR natural science museum recipients, we share an enthusiasm for linking access to archives and scientific specimen and data collections.

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Awareness of the CLIR Hidden Collections project has spread throughout the Science Departments. Earlier this year, we received a transfer of film reels from Ornithology that they could no longer access, but were eager to see. The Library applied for and has received a grant of $16,380 from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) to preserve the Great Gull Island Film Collection.

The three films in this series offer a glimpse into the life work of AMNH Ornithologist, Helen Hays. Great Gull Island and Tern Watch beautifully showcase the Great Gull Island ornithological research station, located east of the North Fork of Long Island, where Helen and her team have conducted research on nesting Common Terns and endangered Roseate Terns for over forty years. Ducks, filmed by Helen as a student in the early 1960s, provides an important historic record of the behavior and mating habits of Ruddy Ducks in the West Pond at the nearby Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Singer, Arthur, “Terns, Gull Island,” AMNH Digital Special Collections, accessed August 20, 2014, http://images.library.amnh.org/digital/index.php/items/show/26459.

Singer, Arthur, “Terns, Gull Island,” AMNH Digital Special Collections, Item#: 335342.


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In 2010 when the library’s first CLIR grant was underway we strategized with the project timeline, plotting a course through the departments. As often happens with projects involving inventory efforts, it became the starting point for a multitude of spin off projects. One of the largest and most inspiring projects has been our current CLIR hidden collections projects grant, of which we are well into our second year. Another happy occurrence has been the ongoing ‘department discoveries’ and transfers that continue to occur.

“Plants, botanical illustration, Kidong Valley,” AMNH Digital Special Collections, accessed June 16, 2014, http://images.library.amnh.org/digital/index.php/items/show/8312.

Before Alfred Kinsey studied human sexuality he studied gall wasps. During his years of entomological study, 1917 to approximately 1940, Kinsey amassed a significant collection of gall wasp specimens much of which eventually became part of the AMNH collections. Since 1995 the AMNH archive has had in its holdings a modest and seemingly incomplete collection for Kinsey which supports the museum’s late 1958 acquisition of his gall wasp collection.  The Alfred Kinsey entomological papers, 1917-1941 are described as only having correspondence for people with last names that begin with B; Balduf, Banks, Beutenmuller, Borgmeier. It had always been a bit of a mystery to the current library staff. It’s clear that the collection had been separated before 1995, but where the other portion of the collection lived was unknown.

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I’m currently interning at the American Museum of Natural History, working on their CLIR Hidden Collections project. The project has focused on the creation of EAC-CPF (Encoded Archival Context – Corporate bodies, Persons, and Families) records, in an attempt to highlight the individuals associated with AMNH expeditions. One of the goals of the project was to shed light on people in connection with these expeditions that researchers and the public may not be aware. While working on a record for explorer Carl Ethan Akeley, it struck me just how much one particular individual was not given more attention: his wife, Mary L. Jobe Akeley. The archives at AMNH house the Mary L. Jobe Akeley collection (Call nos. A342-A344), gifted by her estate in 1967 and 1977. The information within this substantial collection was used to craft an EAC-CPF record for Jobe herself, but I decided to go one step further to bring to light the accomplishments of this remarkable woman.

            There is an antiquated saying: behind every great man there is a great woman. This was never truer (and perhaps misleading) in the case of Mary Lenore Jobe Akeley.  In the world of explorers, it is Carl Ethan Akeley’s name that is more commonly known.  From his work with the Chicago Field Museum to his creation of the Akeley Motion Picture camera to his passion and desire to create the African Hall exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History (now entitled the Akeley Hall of African Mammals), it is Carl Akeley who we mostly remember. Few laypersons are aware of Mary Jobe Akeley and the work she had been performing long before she married, and well after.

             Born on January 29, 1878 in Tappan, Ohio, Jobe grew up with aspirations of being an explorer. She was bright, attending college by age 15 and earning two degrees, a Bachelor of Philosophy, and a Master of Arts by 1909. In 1930, she received an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from Mt. Union College.  While in school she taught grammar and high school and was a member of numerous faculties, including the Head of the Department of history and Civics at the New York State Normal and Training School at Cortland and member of the Department of History at the Normal College of the City of New York(1). Throughout all of this, Jobe also began embarking on expeditions.

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          Jobe’s main area of interest was the Canadian Rockies. Throughout the span of her life she would participate in ten expeditions to British Columbia. Her first two expeditions were in 1905 and 1907, where she helped botanize for Dr. Charles Shaw of the University of Pittsburgh. She would return in 1909, this time with Professor Herschel C. Parker, assisting in the Canadian Topographical Survey Expedition. Her next two expeditions, in the summers of 1910 and 1912 found Jobe exploring areas around Mt. Assiniboine and the Great Divide. During this time, she not only took numerous notes and photographs while on her expeditions, but she also began lecturing at various institutions about her discoveries (a newspaper article from 1913 indicated she gave over 40 lectures on the topic in 1912 alone) (1).

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