- Project Team
Roy Chapman Andrews was an explorer and paleontologist, director of the American Museum of Natural History from 1935 to 1941. He was the quintessential adventurer. Andrews began as a volunteer janitor and self-taught taxidermist at the museum in 1906. His first expedition was to the Pacific Coast to study marine mammals; he went on to explore in Alaska, Japan and Korea, and, aboard the U.S.S. Albatross, the East Indies. Andrews made over 20 expeditions, but his most famous were the Asiatic Zoological Expeditions, especially the third, from 1921 to 1930, known as the Central Asiatic Expeditions, which traveled to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China.
This summer I processed two collections of his personal papers, correspondence, and publications. The first collection I worked on was the Roy Chapman Andrews papers, 1987 Accession. The boxes contained mostly Chapman’s personal papers and information of his publicity efforts. Roy kept a good amount of his fan mail and you can find some very interesting letters, such as the one composed entirely in collage complete with rebus puzzles.
There are also letters from Chapman referencing the Templeton-Crocker Pacific expedition for the Whitney Wing to collect birds, discussing the individuals chosen to go on the expedition and the itinerary for the trip. The collection also contains a small amount of papers related to the research on Yvette Borup’s Family. Yvette was Andrews’ first wife and companion on some of his expeditions.
The second collection relates to Andrews’ most famous adventures, the Central Asiatic Expeditions. Andrews fell in love with China and led his team there three times to explore the origins of man. Much of the collection is comprised of letters to and from Andrews about the preparation of the expeditions including lists of local people who worked on the expedition. Among the letters are a few from Harry Caldwell, a missionary in Yenping, China. He writes to Andrews about an infamous blue tiger. The blue tiger, or Maltese tiger, is a reported but unproven coloration of a tiger, reported mostly in China. Caldwell wrote the book Blue Tiger (1924) about his time searching for the animal. In his letter he states:
Things look bad for the ‘blue tiger’. Da Da has returned from a visit home, and confirms the reports reaching me for months. He listed more than 70 people which have been killed by the beast within the past few months. One woman saw it plainly a short time ago and lived to tell the story. She was washing clothes at a pool when the tiger sprang upon her from above. She dodged, and the tiger went over her head and into the pool. It swam around in the pool and then climbed out on opposite side and went away. The woman was taken up unconscious from fear. She describes the beast definitely, and it is my ‘blue tiger’.
Andrews eventually went in search of the blue tiger and described the hunt in his autobiography “Under a Lucky Star”, but was never able to catch it.
The project has been as exciting as it is informative. I hope, now that these collections have updated finding aids, they will prove to be valuable tools for researching Andrews and the details of the Central Asiatic Expeditions.
The Crocker Land Expedition (1913-1917) had difficulties from the start. The expedition whose mission was to investigate an Arctic landmass Robert E. Peary reported seeing, was originally supposed to begin in July 1912, but due to the death of George Borup, one of the expedition leaders, in April of 1912, the expedition was put off until the following July, 1913. Then, an expedition that was supposed to last for one season ended up being four years long. During this time the Crocker Land Expedition’s ship the S.S. Diana wrecked and there were three unsuccessful rescue attempts before Captain Robert A. Bartlett, aboard the steamer “The Neptune”, finally reached the remaining members in 1917 (in the winter of 1916 several of the expedition members had traveled south by dogsled and returned home).
The last rescue attempt before Bartlett was led by Dr. Edmund O. Hovey, a geologist at the American Museum of Natural History and one of the organizers of the Crocker Land Expedition. After two failed rescue attempts he felt the need to personally involve himself in the third to ensure its success. The American Museum of Natural History hired the schooner “George B. Cluett” from the Grenfell Association to make the third attempt. However, due to a particularly bitter winter they too became stuck in the ice, and were forced to remain in the North for a year.
Its captain, a man named H.C. Pickels, took some photos of this third failed attempt at rescue. Although they were unable to bring the men back, they did succeed in reaching the men of the Crocker Land Expedition, as is evidenced in photos such as this one:
Either Pickels or someone at the Grenfell Association annotated all 35 of these photos, and they therefore provide a window into the experience of these men as they too found themselves on a vessel stuck in the ice, awaiting the next summer.
Photos like this one illuminate the scene of their entrapment:
And, there are even photos of the men themselves while stranded:
Most of my internship this summer was spent preparing biographical information for the members of the Crocker Land Expedition, and seeing the images of the third rescue attempt, when these men had been marooned for 2 years already (and knowing they would be for 2 more), provided me with a real sense of how long they really were gone, and how far removed they were from receiving any help.
The photos of the “George B. Cluett” adrift in an open sea, or in front of the formidable mountains of Southern Greenland provided real perspective: the seven men of the Crocker Land Expedition were trapped in a frozen wilderness for four years, but to some extent by choice, and they weren’t alone; they chose to stay rather than to abandon their equipment and the mission of their expedition. And as a consequence of this determination, they were able to bring specimens, maps, and reports on the Arctic terrain back to the American Museum of Natural History and the American Geographical Society, where they are today.
The AMNH ornithological Whitney South Sea Expedition conducted active field research from 1920 to 1941. My task of writing biographical authority records of the expedition members has revealed the fascinating lives of not only the scientists who participated, but also of the often overlooked wives and native guides who assisted in the research.
The initial list of 17 participants included only the male scientists who embarked from North America. The list has since expanded to 29 and continues to grow. The added names are the wives of the scientists and the native guides or crewmen hired to help traverse the difficult terrain. It is only in brief passing that these seemingly peripheral characters are mentioned. However, their presence should not be underestimated. One field journal notes that the ship engineer, a native of the South Seas cited as “Hicks”, not only maintained the boat but also assisted team leader Rollo Beck in skinning and preparing bird specimens for shipment back to the United States.
The scientists’ wives were not merely along for a tropical vacation — Ida Beck accompanied her husband for nearly the full eight years that Rollo Beck was the expedition leader. Their exploration of the hundreds of islands comprising the South Pacific was a rough campaign full of constant illness, intense physical exertion and danger, as well as months of isolation. Many contemporary newspaper articles in the Beck vertical file at the AMNH research library vaunt Mrs. Beck as a woman on holiday who basks in the exotic landscape. However, the field journals and notes show that Ida spent most of her days aboard the cramped expedition vessel, the France. While on land she collected bird specimens and took field notes, accompanying the team through the harsh landscape, leaving little leisure time.
Another woman, Virginia Correia, was usually only referred to as the wife of Jose Correia — her first name did not appear in research until her obituary was found. Jose Correia, a collector on WSSE, described in his journal the importance of Virginia’s presence on the expedition. She saved him countless hours by collecting birds while he hunted. She gathered eggs and skinned specimens, a skill, Jose wrote, in which she surpassed most men. However, Virginia was never mentioned in field updates or official correspondence. At one point the expedition even considered charging Jose fifty cents a day to have his wife on board the France.
Almost one hundred years after the Whitney South Sea Expedition began, our focus has shifted to include all participants of the voyage. At times it has presented a research challenge since official correspondence often omits crew members and women. However, having access to field journals has been an invaluable source in collecting names of all who were affiliated with WSSE. A rounded story is beginning to form and I am excited at the prospect of giving the women and guides of the expedition an equal place among the scientists.
I’m on an expedition to an expedition, digging in the archives of the American Museum of Natural History to rediscover the history of the Hyde Exploring Expedition to Ancestral Pueblo civilizations in the Southwest. Benjamin Talbot Babbitt Hyde and his brother Frederick E. Hyde, Jr., financed an expedition in the winter of 1893-1894 to excavate the Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwelling civilization in Pueblo Bonito. In addition to the cliff dwellers, evidence of an earlier “Basketmaking” civilization was discovered beneath the canyon floor. The finds were substantial, including thousands of cylindrical pottery vases unique to this site, turquoise, flutes, baskets, and human remains. A second expedition (the Whitmore Exploring Expedition) pursued the work in the midst of the bitterly cold winter of 1896-1897. The Hyde brothers purchased and donated the artifacts from both expeditions to the American Museum of Natural History and continued to sponsor further archeological digs in the region. B.T.B. Hyde became an assistant in the AMNH Department of Anthropology and directly participated in a 1920 expedition (the Cartier Expedition) to Pueblo Bonito to verify the earlier fieldwork.
Over time, the objects, photographs, and glass negatives became separated from the field notes, catalogues, and correspondence that provide essential documentary information and context. Artifacts and documentation about them migrated to other institutions and to separate departments within the AMNH. This fragmentation of records and scattering of finds tests the archivist: arrange and describe a collection of images (mostly glass negatives) that have literally and figuratively lost their legends.
In the course of this work, I am struck by the parallel worlds of the archivist and the archaeologist. Both require imagination about where to dig, a light touch in sifting through fragile remains of the past, respect for stratigraphy and the geology of time, careful documentation, and a good faith effort to shed the biases of the present to see the past in its true context. The end goal draws me in deeper like light at the end of a tunnel–OK, I confess to transient fears that the beam may be an oncoming train–but mostly I’m driven by the purpose of this project: to create a fully text-searchable EAD finding aid and EAC records that link information about the creators of records to the circumstances and context of their use. Upon completion, this project will facilitate research from within the Museum and from any point on the planet with an internet connection.
But where to begin? Start with Hyde and go seek. Museum archivist Barbara Mathé and project archivist Rebecca Morgan guided me to secondary sources to learn about the history of archaeology in Pueblo Bonito. Cowboys and Cave Dwellers: Basketmaker Archaeology in Utah’s Grand Gulch by Fred Blackburn and Ray Williamson was a propitious beginning. They describe a process of “reverse archaeology”–matching museum collections back to their original location and date of excavation. Their work, and that of the Wetherill-Grand Gulch Research Project, involves the painstaking association of museum collections and archives with the signatures and dates explorers etched on cavern walls more than a century ago. These sources also provided an initial cast of characters, information about the relationships between them, and insight into the history of (often bad) museum practices in an era of hot competition to amass collections from historic sites of Native American civilizations. Names of key players that were lost or maligned in history, like that of Hyde Exploring Expedition leader Richard Wetherill, emerged. The templates for EAC records created by metadata analyst Iris Lee help me think schematically and organize the vast sprawl of information as I dig.
Moving on to primary sources, including the Museum’s institutional records, is as rewarding as finding pottery shards in Pueblo Bonito must have been for Richard Wetherill and the Hyde brothers. A historical picture is coming together from fragmentary but vivid and authentic evidence. Of course the “eureka” moments are satisfying, but exploring and identifying where not to dig is equally useful in mapping a guide to this collection. In contrast to the narrow window of a Google search, meandering through primary source materials often leads to startling vistas, a zooming out from Pueblo Bonito to the broader social context of the times. This makes me wonder, is it disengagement from current conflicts in the world today or is it an engagement with science and history that makes a day in the AMNH archives so immensely satisfying? Pushing aside political correctness to evaluate the substance of thought that bears the imprint of its time and prejudices, I found an answer in a May 31, 1918 letter from then-President of the Museum, Henry Fairfield Osborn to B.T.B. Hyde. Amid the barbarism wrought by “civilized” man in WWI, Osborn writes to Hyde in the Southwest:
“I look forward with increasing interest to your exploration of the Aztec ruin; it is altogether a bright and encouraging prospect, and a great relief, with our emotions stirred by the terrible condition of affairs on the continent of Europe,–Nature calm, serene and beautiful, and the work of primitive [sic] man a great resource in these days of trouble.”
At my high school in Scarsdale, NY, seniors enjoy a major perk at the end of their high school careers in the opportunity that is Senior Options. This six-week program encourages seniors to find an internship or complete an independent project of their interest and really get a chance to take part in a working environment. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work at American Museum of Natural History Research Library in Special Collections. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to work than the institution that sparked my educational career when I was a boy.
My work in Special Collections has been primarily with the vertical files, particularly with the biographical files. I worked four days a week condensing and verifying the information within the biographical files. Before I arrived, these files were split into Bio 1 and Bio 2. The separations indicated the relevance to the museum; those who were Bio 1 tended to be employees, trustees, or other individuals closely related to the museum, while those in Bio 2 tended to have a greater degree of separation from the museum. The work I did over the six weeks will hopefully make it easier for the library to create finding aids and eventually link the data of the biographical files with the data of the expedition files and other files to be determined. This will be extremely important for future research, as it will allow for information to be gathered quicker and easier than before via the different links.
While the work could be mundane at times, I am glad I had the opportunity to intern in the Special Collections and I am eternally grateful to all the staff who helped me along the way and were always so kind and caring. I am eager to go back and continue to work on the vertical files; I just know something incredible will come out of the whole linked data idea!
Prior to the advent of the internet, of the computer for that matter, teachers and scientists made use of 35mm slide projectors to provide visual evidence to supplement their lectures or discussions. These rotating, circular cartridges would hold numerous slides, each one diligently marching through the carousel like good little soldiers, patiently awaiting their time to shine, before being promptly dismissed and replaced by the next projected image. Well, let me introduce you to the forefather of the PowerPoint presentation – the lantern slide.
Lantern slides come either in their original black and white incarnation, or are delicately hand painted.
Going through the Library’s collection of lantern slides (of which there are over 40,000), I was able to pull five that showed the Ainu, two of which were the slide image, but tinted in different colors.
Time passes all too quickly as my internship is sadly coming to an end in the Anthropology Division of the American Museum of Natural History. Having worked with two large collections spanning from the 1930s to the 2000s, I was able to see the passage of time through the eyes of an “archivist”…browsing through papers, photographs and correspondence of collections, I had noticed the changes in the papers, staples, writing, ink, as well as the mode and style of the art of communication. For example, the careful handwriting within diaries of scientists, which can still be read today, and the fragile typing carbon paper of the early 20th century, with their letters typed on a Smith-Corona, perhaps, changing through time into Western Union telegrams, cablegrams and finally into the computer printed documents and emails of the present. Yet, the results are the same – communication with one another as humans and the dissemination of information, not to mention, the future needs to preserve our present modes of communication: emails, born digital websites, social networking posts, tweets and blogs.
It is a credit to our Archiving and Library professions to be able to preserve the past, present and the future collections for generations to come. I am grateful to the wonderful staff of the Anthropology Division, for hosting me as an intern, especially to Kristen Mable, my supervisor, for guiding, mentoring and teaching me so much, and also to Paul Beelitz and Barbara Mathe for the exciting tours and helpful information, many thanks!
After a week in Canada visiting family it’s back to business here in the AMNH Archives and Special Collections. Today I set myself a task: find the starting point for the Museum’s Northern Plains anthropological research. When and how did it begin? What was its rationale? Obviously these are good things to know when it comes to writing historical notes, but such disparate and extensive programs that extend across decades, under different curators and evolving departments, do not necessarily come with helpful and legibly-transcribed notes for future historians.
So: I went backwards. I read Museum publications from before the systematic plains research began and from the early years of the Department of Anthropology. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t find my perfect explanation, but I did find several early expeditions that provided the groundwork for—and probably piqued the interest of—those who would become involved in the Plains research. My impressions are that the personal interests of curators and patrons, a theoretical vogue around ideas of cultural dispersal, opportunism, the fear that indigenous American culture was vanishing under the onslaught of westernization, and the slow convergence of several research directions morphed into a sort of direction that could then be defined and made systematic.
No day would be complete without new questions being raised, and as usual mine are related to the organization of data. Around the turn of the century, expeditions tended to be named after a patron or destination and identified discretely; later they became field trip-components of larger projects that attempted to link, to compare and to contrast the findings of individual staff members. I’m reminded of just how important it is that this data can be sorted by fields such as ‘expedition name’, where appropriate, or ‘research program’ or ‘year’ as well as by explorer. As I’ve mentioned before, explorer name is extremely useful when it comes to tracking the often seemingly inexplicable movements of staff around North America. However, it is also necessary that context is provided to link these individuals to their place in the wider work of the Museum both at any one time and over time.
Now I just need to figure out how to enter these earlier expeditions into my name-based Excel system. There’s nothing like an evolving methodology to keep things lively!
Describing Expeditionary field work at the AMNHThese posts describe recent discoveries and observations by the project team.
In 2012, the Research Library of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) was awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, through a program administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources’ (CLIR) Cataloging Hidden Collections. The AMNH Archive Project will produce in-depth descriptions, called finding aids, for major archival collections relating to Museum expeditions. The project will also result in brief histories of these expeditions and biographies of those who participated in them.
TagsAinu AMNH library catalog Anthropology Archives Archbold Archival Arrangement Authority Names CAT Cataloging CLIR 2010 Correspondence Crocker Land Department of Preparation and Installation Department Records Dissociation expeditions Fall 2011 Field Notes Finding Aid finding aids Hayden Planetarium Herpetology Archives hidden connections IMLS John T. Nichols LARA linked data Mammalogy Archives Manuscript Collection Maps Museum History Non-Curatorial Field Notes Ornithology Archives Paleontology Archives Phase 2 photographs Photo Print Collection Processing Research Library Risk Assessment Slide Collection Spring 2011 Spring 2012 Summer 2011 Summer 2012 T. Don Carter
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