Currently viewing the tag: "Archbold"

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 Becca and I ventured up to Mammalogy to continue the brainstorming process about how to assign location numbers to the collections. While Mammalogy’s archive was the site for the Museum’s original library, today it can best be described as “complicated.” On the first floor, the original shelves were taken out and filing cabinets were inserted in their place. Each bay is separated by the original metal work. In addition, many filing cabinets have archival boxes stored on top of them. The first floor houses the reprints collection, field notes, Archbold correspondence and expedition photographs, Department correspondence, Sydney Anderson’s papers and Karl F. Koopman’s unprocessed files. The correspondence files and reprints are arranged well within the filing cabinets, but the Anderson papers, while collected together, can’t really be described as truly processed in the archival sense. Mr. Koopman’s papers have yet to be processed, from conference badges to college yearbook.

The second floor setup is similar, but represents a more extreme version. This is where we find the visual materials related to the many expeditions the Department has been involved with. Like many New York City residents the collections have roommates. The materials are often organized separately, but live together in one drawer. This situation makes it difficult to completely ascertain where a properly labeled collection would begin and end. Prints taken by different photographers from the same expedition are organized separately, but if fully processed, would they be part of the same collection? The collections are not unprocessed, but they are not processed either.

This situation led us to the conclusion that it would be easier to number the bays rather than the collections themselves. In most circumstances this would not be recommended, but here it works as a temporary solution. The next step in the process will be to actually label the sections as unobtrusively as possible, working with the Mammalogy Department to get their official buy-in. We discussed whether to use labels on cardboard, wire and other office supplies to develop a professional look.

As today is my last day at AMNH, I wanted to say thank you Becca, Iris, Barbara, Beth, Joanna and Michael for their support and partnership. I’ll miss thoroughly scrubbing my fingernails at the end of each day and the vague smell of formaldehyde. The Museum is truly a magical place and I am grateful to have contributed in my small way.

Today we completed Phase 1 in the Department of Mammalogy. In total we described 97 collections, but because of the organization of the archive, that number fails to tell the whole story. In reality, the total number of collections, if properly processed, would probably be more in the vicinity of 15-20. The second floor of the archive in particular is home to a majority of the visual images related to the various expeditions conducted by the Department from the turn of the century through the 1950s. Some of the images feature specimen samples, but the great majority of them tell the stories of those expeditions. It would be an interesting future project to properly arrange and describe the collections so that they are housed together, by expedition. Pictures were taken by different members of the expedition, perhaps resulting in the segmented housing of the images throughout the archive.

In the course of this project, we have grown close to Richard Archbold, pictured here. He was born in New York City in 1907 and was an heir to the Standard Oil fortune. From 1929-1939, he worked with the Museum to organize and sponsor four expeditions, first to Madagascar and then three to New Guinea. He supported other expeditions to New Guinea and Australia after WWII as well. Evidence of these efforts are everywhere in the archive.

It is interesting to note that the Archbold correspondence collection is carefully arranged, as are the publications that stemmed from the expeditions. Perhaps this has been considered sufficient to telling their story. The visual images, however, give life and full weight to their experiences and their proper arrangement, description and cataloging would be very exciting to see. The breadth of the photographic collection is such that with the right amount of attention and organization. This collection can be offered a second life and a new audience through the scanning process. A digital archive seems a natural step in sharing these historically and scientifically rich images. During the course of our inventorying, we have also come across countless color and black and white prints, slides of all types – from kodachromes and stereoslides to glass and lantern – negatives in various sizes and fragile “vintage” prints as well as a copper plate portrait. One of the recommendations we would make is to install proper temperature and relative humidity controls.

As we have recorded already, the existence of an air conditioner on the first floor has created two separate climates. Today we guessed that there was a difference of about 15 degrees between the two floors. For Phase 2 we have assessed the risks to each collection, however, the lack of temperature and humidity controls represents the greatest risk of all.

Today, we came across yet another technology format. We found some stereo slides taken by Hobart Merritt Van Deusen of the 1959 and 1964 Archbold Expeditions. Stereo slides, much like stereographs, are slides with two side-by-side images meant to capture 3-D images. There is a stereo slide viewer in the library (with a replacement bulb!) but unfortunately, we did not have the two D batteries required to enjoy Van Deusen’s fine work.

In addition to finding many new types of formats, we continue to come across prints and documents that chart the life of the museum itself. The various halls that house the Department of Mammalogy exhibits have changed throughout the years. It is interesting to link some of the correspondence about the creation of the exhibits to the architectural plans for the exhibit halls. We have seen that throughout the years, the iconic blue whale has moved to various locations throughout the museum. The attached photo shows one incarnation. Today, we came across a special book of photographs that was given to each donor that contributed to the North American Mammal Hall. The back of the book shows how their contribution was used and gives a hint of how the museum hall was created.


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During our time spent in the Mammalogy archive we came across a large bound collections of newspaper clippings and published bulletins. The newspapers dated from the beginning of the twentieth century to just after World War II and were in pretty good condition barring a few preservation issues. Many of the newspaper clippings were held together by paper clips that have left some marks and indentations. Other clippings were secured to the pages by a mysterious adhesive that amazingly left no residue on the articles. Many articles were held to their page by metal paperclips. The paperclips were not rusted but still threatened the long term health of the clippings. Still, despite the relatively decent condition of the articles, they were yellowing and brittle.

The biggest collection featured the work of Richard Archbold, an American zoologist and philanthropist who undertook multiple expeditions on behalf of the Museum. The collection featured articles detailing his exploits in New Guinea as well as his use of the latest equipment, such as ham radios. Having come across multiple collections, we speculated about their use. A few guesses included publicity to highlight the work of the Museum to procure additional funding, vanity, or simply to chart previous efforts. Either way, the collections should be handled with care so that future researchers can ask and answer the same questions.

Here’s a picture of one of Richard Archbold’s scrapbooks.

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Today was our first day participating in the summer semester internship program. After getting our ID cards, we made our way to the Department of Mammalogy Archive, the home of the Museum’s original library. Throughout the summer, we will be exploring the archive to inventory and record the contents of the collection. Today we worked on phase one of the project. We found some nicely processed collections containing departmental correspondence, administrative files and Richard Archbold files. The photographs from the Archbold expeditions to Arizona, Cape York and New Guinea are stored in black rolling cabinets with pull-out racks with pictures sleeved individually. The Field Notes Collection proved more challenging: what to do with them and how will they be entered: as one record or broken down by expedition? We also found some unprocessed collections: B. Elizatbeth “Betty” Horner papers and the Marie Lawrence papers. Most of the collections we encountered were well organized allowing us to get familiar with the working conditions and the cataloging worksheet. At the end of the day, we had a chance to look around the rest of the archive and brace ourselves for the upcoming challenges.

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