Currently viewing the tag: "Crocker Land"

During the last few weeks, I spent Thursdays finishing a finding aid for the Crocker Land Expedition Field Photographs collection. I’ve learned that writing finding aids is a bit of an art. You have to write with authority and cover the relevant points without the flourishes that some writing permits. However, you also don’t want to make the content so dry that it sounds like a machine generated the Historical Note or Biographical Sketch.

Since I have another two weeks scheduled at the AMNH, Iris gave me a small collection of E.O. Hovey’s papers to work on that is partly related to the Crocker Land Expedition. E.O. Hovey was the head curator at the AMNH during the Crocker Land Expedition and he unexpectedly joined the team in the field for two years. He had only intended to sail up to the Arctic to retrieve the team on the relief ship. However, early ice conditions prevented the ship from reaching the headquarters in Etah, Greenland and they could not leave the specimens they had collected or their equipment. (I should note here, Hovey had travelled throughout the Caribbean shortly before he went to retrieve the team from the Arctic. Of the two locales, I’m sure Hovey would have preferred to be stranded in the Caribbean for two years.)

This collection is divided between two banker boxes that hold approximately 50 field notebooks, linen maps of Greenland, photographs and postcards, and a manuscript of Donald B. MacMillan’s Crocker Land expedition report. The notebooks cover Hovey’s expeditions in the Caribbean, Mexico, the US (including the Sierra Madre and the Black Hills in South Dakota), and Greenland. Several of the notebooks contain Hovey’s notes from classes he took in Germany during the 1890’s. There are also a few volumes of Ettie Hovey’s, Edmund’s wife, travel journals from this same trip. One of the things that struck me was how extensively they traveled through Europe in such a short period of time. They saw it all (Italy, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, England, France, to name a few) and without the time saving benefit of airplanes!

The majority of my time today was spent on researching the Crocker Land Expedition by reading materials from the main stacks and vertical files. From this I learned that the 73 photographs I am working with are a tiny selection of the 5,500 photographs that were taken during the four years the team was in the arctic. I also learned the expedition faced numerous hardships; starting with the death of George Borup, who would have been one of the co-leaders with Donald MacMillan. The trip was postponed for one year and a larger team was assembled before the S.S. “Diana” set sail in July 1913. Unfortunately, the team would not enjoy smooth sailing (no pun intended) from here, as “Diana” struck rocks off the coast of Labrador. A second ship had to be commissioned for the remainder of the trip; however, the delay made it impossible for the team to reach their desired destination in northern Greenland because winter was nearing. In 1914, it was discovered that Crocker Land was nothing more than a mirage. Efforts to retrieve the team from Etah, Greenland began in 1915 but were complicated due to the harsh conditions. Part of the team returned to New York in 1916 on the S.S. “Cluett.” MacMillan and two others remained in Etah for another year because they were still in the field when the “Cluett” departed.

I began to fill out the Finding Aid Worksheet and a preliminary draft of the Finding Aid this afternoon, with the information above. Some questions I have for the next time are:

  1. Since none of the photographs are dated and it is unclear at what point in the expedition they were taken, should I list the dates on the container list as “circa 1913-1917?”
  2. I could not find the names of the photographers during my research; however, the catalog record for the larger collection of Crocker Land Expedition photographs identifies MacMillan and Edmund Hovey as the creators. Are they the creators because they were the leaders of the expedition?
  3. And, in the Related Material field, do I list all of the items in the library’s collection that relate to the Crocker Land Expedition?

To answer my question from last time: “Jot” was Jonathan Small, a member of the team from Newfoundland (my grandmother’s birthplace). : )

It has been a productive summer in the AMNH Research Library: 454 collections cataloged in the Photographic Print collection, and 461 collections for the Photographic Slides. That’s over 900 collections recorded for a single term! To our benefit, we did start with some pretty solid inventories, but verifying the data and assessing risk is no small task. Many improvements were made such as adding access points to the subject and contributor fields. Titles, dates, and summaries were revised to be made DACS-compliant. There was even time to do authority work on personal and corporate names. In twelve weeks, I think we accomplished a lot.

Continue reading »

In today’s episode of “Inside the AMNH” our explorer comes across a dusty acid free folder at the back of a dusty Paige box.

“What’s in that dusty acid free folder ?“ the archivist said.

“Why what do you know, it’s a script!”

That’s right our guide couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw that inside the folder named “Spice Exhibit” was a radio drama style script from the perspective of Marco Polo and other explorers. The story and the exhibit tell of the early spice trading routes and how they were regarded as “more precious than gold!” Also a part of today’s adventure our guide had his first encounter with a mysterious Fata Morgana in the form of “Crocker Land”. I don’t want to spoil that story just yet so you should do some investigating of your own and we’ll compare notes later.

Today I cleaned up the Department of Mammalogy data collected as part of Phase One of the project. I focused on creators and/or contributors and looked up the name authority file. Who doesn’t love the Subject Added Fields? A collection of Department of Mammalogy staff photographs provided a fine opportunity to look up all those names we’ve become so familiar with (although they seem less familiar when you read the authority file name): Allen, J. A. (Joel Asaph), 1838-1921; Anderson, Sydney, 1927-; Anthony, H. E. (Harold Elmer), 1890-1970; Archbold, Richard; Brass, L. J. (Leonard J.); Carter, T. Donald (Thomas Donald), 1893-1972; Chapman, Frank M. (Frank Michler), 1864-1945; Gregory, William K. (William King), 1876-1970; Hartman, Frank Alexander, 1883-1971; Hill, John Edwards; Lang, Herbert, 1879-1957; Koopman, Karl F.; Lawrence, Marie A.; Morden, William J. (William James), 1886-1958; Musser, Guy G.; Raven, Henry Cushier, 1889-1944; Sommer, Helmut G.; Tate, G. H. H. (George Henry Hamilton), 1894-1953; Van Deusen, Hobart M.; Van Gelder, Richard George, 1928-1994. That is one “Who’s Who” of the Department of Mammalogy!

We also received a request for materials related to the Crocker Land Expedition.Haven’t heard of Crocker Land near Greenland? That’s because there is no Crocker Land.A fine mystery we learned about (for a quick read, check this out).A look at the Photographic Print collection catalog I’ve been working on gave me some clues: there are some expedition photographs, as well as prints from the two attempts to bring back the explorers.Talking with Michael, the other Mammalogy intern, we were able to find another potential source. Although neither of us had seen the name of the expedition in our Phase One work, we looked at the finding aid for the Department of Mammalogy correspondence and there it was: there is a file for Robert Peary, the expedition leader and Greenland specimen collector. Should be an interesting read.