Currently viewing the tag: "curators"

While interning in the Anthropology Division under the supervision of Ms. Kristen Mable, Registrar for Archives & Loans, I had the opportunity to work with some very interesting collections, the first being the Papers of Junius Bouton Bird, 1907-1982, regarding his research in North America. Bird, a careful excavator and pioneer in the use of radiocarbon dating and textile studies was best known for his South American research. He became the Curator of South American archaeology at the American Museum in 1957. Bird sailed to the Arctic several times, becoming an expert sailor while doing archaeological research work in areas such as: Eastern Greenland, Hopedale, Labrador, Cape York and Southampton Island, to name a few. Artifacts from Bird’s excavations in Labrador and Southampton Island can be found in the AMNH Anthropology Division’s collections.

Junius Bouton Bird sailing, possibly on the schooner "Morrissey".

As I explored the field reports, correspondence and photographs in this collection, I came across an interesting photograph of an artifact known as the “spindle whorl”, found at the L’Anse aux Meadows Norse Vikings settlement ruins on the Northern coast of Newfoundland. This site was first discovered by Helge Ingstad, a Norwegian adventurer and writer, in 1960 by following a hunch and an ancient map. This site, found to be almost a millennium old, was believed to be the place where Vikings landed in North America about 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The “spindle whorl” artifact was in fact, a yarn spinner, about 1000 years old, which proved that the Viking settlers included women, who performed household tasks. Bird did conservation work at the site from 1961 to 1964 and also gave a lecture on the Norse. His notes and slides from the lecture can be found in this collection as well.

The Spindle Whorl artifact found at the Norse Vikings "L'Anse aux Meadows" site on the Northern coast of Newfoundland.

This collection also includes archaeological sites in the United States, such as mastodon sites in Hackensack, New Jersey and the Kunatah rock shelter in upstate New York, among others. Also included here are Bird’s papers on his research work in Honduras and Okinawa, Japan. Junius Bird died in New York in 1982, leaving behind plentiful evidence of his illustrious archaeological research work for future generations of people, researchers, students and interns, such as myself, to re-discover. I feel privileged to have worked on this exciting collection and grateful for this unique opportunity.

 

This was our last day in Invertebrate Paleontology. We spent our morning with Bushra and Becca on the fifth floor checking that our data matched up with the collections and attaching final labels. It was a good decision to begin the day with a full room review because we realized early on that we had somehow skipped over a bay full of IP treatises and catalog ledger duplicates that required new records in our spreadsheets.

In the afternoon, we went over helpful notes Iris sent us for our spreadsheet. Looking forward to when our work will be transformed into MARC records that will eventually become part of the AMNH online research library, we had to make sure our data was neat and consistent. All of this meant deleting terminal periods and uncapitalizing words previously capitalized in all of our records, but we somehow got it all done!

It was definitely sad but also incredibly satisfying to end our work in IP. Claire and I are really proud of all that we’ve accomplished over the semester. We had fun helping Bushra realize new organization techniques for her department and we were happy to learn a lot more about Invertebrate Paleontology than we ever knew before. While it was sometimes dull work to sort through departmental files, the times when we found amazing things in the collection–photographs of the department’s early curators, beautifully handwritten ledgers and unique specimen drawings–made all of our efforts worthwhile.

Claire and I are working together in Invertebrate Paleontology, and today was our second day sorting through the Department’s files. After encountering countless loan documents, budgets, annual reports, maintenance schedules, visitor forms and office supply lists, we were ready to move on from filing cabinets full of these necessary but less-exciting departmental records.

Phone bills and shipping forms in a filing cabinet

Half-way through our second day, we began to uncover the really interesting materials we sought. One unassuming box contained over a dozen original sketches of the Museum’s most famous curators signed by the artist James Bowen. Another was full of field trip notebooks and journals from the late nineteenth century featuring drawings of fossils and landscapes with incredibly detailed descriptions of localities explored by scientists from the Department. Nearly a whole cabinet houses bound and unbound accession books cataloging hundreds of thousands of invertebrate specimens.

Sketch of R.P. Whitfield, Curator of Geology

We had the chance to work alongside some of those specimens today, and we are definitely looking forward to learning more about Invertebrate Paleontology as we progress through the Department’s files. Bushra Hussaini, the Senior Scientific Assistant, is helping us along the way and has already enriched the preliminary work we have accomplished.

One of our work stations in Invertebrate Paleontology

Next week will hopefully be a continuation of the exciting and engaging endeavors we began today.