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Boo hoo, alas, after three months, today was our last day in Herpetology. We spent the day trying to do as much as we can to complete the risk assessment of the processed collection, and the cataloging and risk assessment of the unprocessed collections. As we mentioned in last week’s blog, the unprocessed collections are HUGE. There were many boxes of papers, slides, photographs (both black & white and color), notebooks, and more. To give a perspective, Ernest A. Liner’s collection has over 8,000 slides! Whew! Unfortunately, most of these slides have sustained damage due to being housed in non-archival plastic sleeves. The sleeves are sticking to the emulsion of the slides. We were told that these slides are one of the most important items in his collection. Hopefully, these slides will be preserved somehow.

Near the end of the day, we found boxes of slides that showed the various stages of venomous snake and spider bites including several slides depicting autopsies of fatal bites. These slides are from the Sherman Minton collection. Minton seemed to specialize in studying the effects of venom and anti-venom.

To conclude, while we learned a lot about cataloging and risk assessment of archival collections, we also increased our knowledge of reptiles and amphibians as a side benefit. Jannette’s favorite out of the entire collection was the giant turtles that greeted us everyday as we walked to the archival room. My favorite reptile was Ernest Liner’s smiling pet, Buster, the Mexican beaded lizard.

While tackling some of the unprocessed collections in Herpetology, we came across a century 0ld scrapbook of newspaper clippings about toads. The clippings spanned from 1911 to 1936 and the scrapbook was in good condition. One very interesting article that caught our attention was about a hop toad that was found alive in Nantucket after 21 years entombed in cement! We were amazed and intrigued to read about this. Upon further research, we found another article that mentioned of a horn toad that suffered a similar fate. However, he was discovered alive after 31 years in West Texas. The article discussed the findings of a researcher who claimed that certain species of frogs can exist without food or water for a hundred years. Wow, this was truly mind boggling!

Other than our trip through old newspapers, we were able to complete the cataloging and risk assessment of the rest of the unprocessed collections that were mixed in with the maps. These included photographs, negatives, posters, artwork, and other mixed formats, including field notes. We are finding that cataloging these unprocessed collections takes a bit longer due to the vast variety of formats. However, looking through these “treasure troves” makes this project fascinating and enjoyable.

Again, there were many photographs that are in need of correct archival storage and treatment. We found a cool looking enlarged x-ray of a coiled snake that we think almost looks like a chain necklace. Next week, we shall be exploring a different room in Herpetology, who knows what we will discover next!

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That’s right as of today I have officially finished the Phase I stage in the slide collection. Yeah! Most of the boxes I went through today were in excellent shape and I really only found 2 problems. One a complete lack of labeling of a rather large collection and the other a very obvious case of a misplaced slide. The slide was of a lemur near her den and was labeled as being in Zion National Park, Utah. The problem is the rest of the collection (3 boxes worth) were all of animals taken in Africa!

While I didn’t have that many boxes to go through today there was quite a variety to the collections I did work on. I started with Philip Hanson Hiss’ collections and although there were many boxes telling me the slides were from a “Trip Around the World”, none of the slides or boxes where labeled with anything more specific than that. It is really a shame because there are some really beautiful slides in these collections but with out verification of what they are and where they were taken are they any use to researchers? There is only so much authority work one can do.

I then went on to some collections created by AMNH of both temporary and permanent exhibits when they were built. I was truly fascinated by the “Nature of the Diamond” Temporary Exhibit that was here in 1997. It included diamonds in royal jewelry as well as diamonds still in their matrix rocks.

I finished then Phase I in true AMNH style with a wonderful collection by Richard Van Gelder. Gelder traveled extensively around Africa from 1960-1981 photographing African animals in the wild. These slides were truly some of the best I’ve seen so far and often made me feel like I was right there next to these animals. Honestly Iris and I felt like we were looking at National Geographic. Unfortunately I can’t share any of these photos today since we are having difficulties with our camera but I will be sure to add some in either Wednesday or next Monday so be sure to check back!

Today in Herpetology for a change of pace, we decided to take a side trip to the map room. Needless to say we found some maps. Big maps, small maps, old maps, new maps, sketch maps, maps in Spanish, black and white maps, color maps, relief maps and even some hand drawn maps. As you can see by picture above, one map was almost bigger than Marilyn!!

The maps spanned the entire world including every continent as well as countries, states, counties, cities, townships and even some maps of remote locations where the herpetologists found and marked specific specimens.

Most of the maps were in good condition. All are kept in map drawers and many are separated with acid-free paper. Some of the older maps are brittle and ripping. The following map is of Arizona which a herpetologist who happened to pass by estimated it was from the 1930s.

We did find some maps that were laminated. We we wondering if that may be a good solution for the older maps that are falling apart. Are these maps too fragile for the laminating process?

So far we have estimated over 2000 maps in this collection and that does not include a locked cabinet we can not get into yet. Among this collection are also many items that are not maps and should probably not be in this room but more on that later….

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Today we continued processing all of S. Byron Stone’s many many MANY slides!! Since an Internet search of him returned very little our best guess is that Stone was a world traveler who donated his travel photographs to the museum. He was extremely well travelled and explored some fascinating locations including Isreal, Japan, Thailand, South America and many more. thoughout the 1960’s. We came across a Body Building Competition in Japan that was a welcome change from the never ending slides of street markets and landscapes.

Stone’s images captured a specific time and place in the world when noticeable changes still existed between different countries. One of the souvenirs included in the slide collections were souvenir slides, created at the time to be bought by tourists for their slide shows at home. We’ve noticed these slides in a few of the travel collections of different people and have noted that every time they are present, the quality of the slide has deteriorated in color faster than the slides included in the collection. We somehow doubt that any country is creating souvenir slides today.

There were some problems with sloppy labeling present in Stone’s collection and also in the mysterious Clyde Fisher collection. More on the mystery later. In the case of the Fisher collection, many of the labels were marked directly on the mount in ink, which could off-gas. In the case of the Stone collection, we came across a rather sloppy and extreme case of labeling gone wrong when we found a slide covered in what looked like red crayon.

And on to our mystery of the day: how does a man take extensive photos of his travels over 20 years after his death? That is the question that the wonder of authority records will solve, when we clear up the reason why a Clyde Fisher who died in 1949 was labelled the creator of slides taken in the late 60s and early 70s. Hooray for authority records!

As always, thanks for visiting the slide collection with us and we will see you all next week!

We made good progress today – we were able to catalog many collections, most of which contained field notes from expeditions. Almost all the field notes that we read were about frogs. There was one particular interesting collection titled the AMNH Hispaniola Expedition that occurred in 1935. Although this collection only contained one item – a sketchbook with notes by Melville P. Cummin, his illustrations were quite impressive. The artwork depicted primarily of you guess it, frogs! Similar to the watercolor paintings from the Third Asiastic Expedition, the sketches (we think the medium used is pencil), were lifelike and beautiful. The pictures shown vouch our findings.

One question that came up was with the Archbold Expeditions Collection. We weren’t sure if the creator should be the sponsor (Archbold) or the herpetologists who were on the expedition, especially since the field notes were written by the scientists. Upon checking with Becca, we found out that the creator is actually the Museum. Well, live and learn. We even found one chart where the data was unidentifable. We ended up labeling it as research for a lack of a better term. To end our day of frogs, we took a trip to view the Frog Exhibit.

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Today we discovered some fascinating paintings in Herpetology and also ran in some confusion with MARC fields. While working with interdepartmental records we came across specimen lists that included expedition names. So the question becomes what field (611 or 711) should the expedition names be placed in? While the lists themselves were not from the expeditions the specimens on the lists were from the expeditions. We chose 711 but are still not sure.

After lunch we got a chance to work with some of the most beautiful and lifelike watercolor painting we have ever seen. The watercolor paintings were created in the field by a Chinese artist who was commissioned to accompany the expedition and create paintings of frogs, snakes, salamanders and lizards. The paintings are from the Third Asiatic Expedition in 1921-1926 and are part of the Clifford H. Pope Collection. These paintings are in excellent condition and words cannot describe the detail and realistic quality of the artwork. A herpetologist in the department told us the paintings had not been published but have been on exhibit at the Museum. Our personal opinion is they REALLY should be published.

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Today we worked on cataloging slides in the Research Library. We worked primarily with the William James Morden Collection. Morden completed many expeditions to Africa from 1947-1956. Most of the slides contained photos taken all over Africa including Zimbabwe, Congo, Angola, Kenya and Zaire. There was one container that seemed to contain more than one collection. While this container did contain slides from Morden’s African Expeditions it also included many slides that were dated after his death and seemed to be expeditions led by his wife Irene Morden. Irene Morden’s slides included scenes not only from Africa but also Russia, Egypt and Nepal. There were also many slides which included Irene Morden as the subject.

While most of these slides are in very good condition we found one slide that for some unknown reason has two pieces of red tape over the slide. This tape is causing damage to the slide and it is deteriorating rapidly. There is a possibility the tape could be causing harm to the rest of the slides in the container due to off gassing.