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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,

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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Anthropology has a wonderful website that offers access to a database of their collections including some of what is included in their archive. Luckily they were able to offer the archive data to us, we’ve requested the data as both Excel and Access files. The students will verify and add to these archive records in our Excel sheet as they come across them. The data is a great gift as it contains already vetted records including extensive subject headings.

We are working on moving the data into the Excel sheet that we are using for Phase 1. In the meantime, the team will start with some of the collections that are not included in the database. Any new records that we create will be offered back to the Anthropology department so that they can update their database. These collections will include:

  • Accession Ledgers
  • Accession Envelopes
  • Donor Cards
  • Original Catalogs
  • Original Publication Artwork

Over the course of the project we will be finding many standard departmental records throughout the various departmental archives. That said, the departments often organize and use the records differently.

In Anthropology the accession records are made up of Accession Ledgers, Accession Envelopes and Donor Cards. All of these records relate back to each other and offer an additional perspective on the details of a collection that has been accessioned. For our Phase 1 cataloging effort each of these will be recorded as a different collection which relates to the other. This should help us capture the unique and comprehensive approach that the division uses and make sure it’s reflected in the OPAC records that will be generated.

I thought it might be interesting to share how Anthropology is going to define their Accession Envelopes for the Catalog records. This definition comes from Kristen Mable and Paul Beelitz in Anthropology.

There is an “accession envelope” for each of the x,xxx accessions which have been made by the Anthropology Division since the time of the Museum’s founding to the present.  The envelopes are stored chronologically, and contain documents pertinent to each accession, e.g., correspondence, shipping records, lists, collector’s notes, letters of transmittal (implemented in the 1980s), AMNH accession records, record of payment, ephemera, etc.