The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
- An inside look at the Smithsonian's Feather Foresnics Lab. [via The Torch, Smithsonian and NPR]
- An interesting approach to showing the degradation of JPEG images through the use of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. [via PetaPixel]
- A duo of website announcements: Both the National Air and Space Museum and the Web Archives Collection at the Library of Congress have newly designed websites. Congrats! [via National Air and Space Museum and The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Aerial photos found by Matthew O’Sullivan, the keeper of photographs at the New Zealand Air Force Museum may bring to light new information in the ongoing mystery of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. [via PetaPixel]
- At long last, the National Museum of Natural History will get its own Tyrannosaurus rex. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out the State Archives of Florida and their collection of videos. [via Effie Kapsalis, SIA]
This past Friday, we held our 3rd Wikipedia edit-a-thon on the scientific field books in the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ collections (field books are primary source documents that describe the events leading up to and including the collection of specimens or observations during field research). All told, we had 18 volunteers who donated their entire Friday to work on articles related to explorers and expeditions held in our collections. Amongst the 18 were a husband/wife team, and a father-daughter team.
Participants gathered over coffee in the morning to hear more about the Archives and the Field Book project, a partnership between the Archives and the National Museum of Natural History which seeks to create a single online location for scientific field books. The talk was followed by a tour of the Russell E. Train Africana Collection, a special collection housed in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries which contains several thousand manuscripts, photographs, original artwork and prints, posters, maps, ephemera, and man-made and natural artifacts relating to exploration, big game hunting, wildlife, and travel in Africa dating from 1663 to the late 1990s. The tour provided rich context for one of the articles on our to-do list, the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition.
After lunch, we got down to business and worked on our to-do list for the remainder of the afternoon. I am happy to report that as a group, we worked on all but one of the items on the to-do list. Even better, each explorer/scientist or expedition received attention from more than one, if not several, Wiki editors which makes for a stronger article in the end. Here is a list of the people that now have Wikipedia articles as a result of this gathering:
- Argentinian botanist, Cleofé Elsa Calderón who rediscovered Anomochloa, a genus of grass, which led to a detailed morphological and anatomical study that confirmed it as a grass. Calderón also has a genus of grass names for her, Calderonella.
- Mammologist and field naturalist, John Alden Loring, who served on several expeditions collecting specimen in North America, Europe, and Africa.
- Ornithologist, James Eike, President and long-standing executive committee member of the Virginia Society of Ornithology and creator of over 111 field books.
- The Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition, an expedition organized by then U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, which amassed over 23,151 natural history specimens.
If you’d like to contribute, we could use your help expanding the articles on the Explorers & Expeditions to-do list. If you’d prefer to start fresh on a new Wikipedia article, we have on our main to-do list from past edit-a-thons which needs some attention and care from volunteers like you. In any case, next time you cite a Wikipedia page for information, remember the many hands that went into creating and editing that page.
When I started out in web development in 1995, a tweet was the sound a bird made. I know, this dates me. Looking back, it was difficult to know how the web, and mobile web, would change how we communicate and get information from sharing news with friends and family, to getting the latest times on public transportation. At the Archives alone, we have our website with a blog, public forums, and over 20,000 collection items for downloading and sharing. We contribute our collections to Flickr Commons, History Pin, and Wikipedia. We share collections and resources on our Facebook page with over 4500 ‘likes,’ and we contribute to the overall Smithsonian Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr spaces. With such distributed efforts, it’s increasingly difficult to keep track of how we’re doing in these different spaces. However, as Head of Web & Outreach, I need to know if we’re spending our resources in the right places. So, we have goals and metrics to measure performance against these goals in all of these different spaces (that is, if numbers are available). Today, I’d like to give you a peek into what we know about you, our blog readers, with hopes that you’ll tell us more about yourself in the comments section below!
We have a pretty good idea of generally where you live (don’t worry, we won’t show up at your door since we don’t have your address!). The top 5 countries are:
- United States
- United Kingdom
We have a core following of about 17% of you whom are our returning visitors. About 42% of you are referred to us by other websites. The top 5 referring sites are:
- The Register in the UK
Your favorite blog posts are:
- The Smithsonian's Top 6 Archives Myths, a post that looks at the top 6 misconception people have about the Smithsonian’s archives.
- Wisdom is in the head, and not in the beard..., the tale of a beard measuring 17 ½ feet that was donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in 1967
- Dorothea Dix: Mental Health Reformer and Civil War Nurse, a post examining Dix’s connection to the Smithsonian.
- The Saint Augustine Monster, the mysterious sea blob, or globster, a portion of which was sent to the Smithsonian for identification.
- Some Archival Career Advice, some suggestions from one of our staff members about becoming an archivist
And occasionally we have interviewed some of our more dedicated followers to get to know some of you better. So, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what interests you about the Archives in the comments section below!
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