The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: Collections in Focus
For our next Miscellaneous Adventure, you voted to open Accession 94-043, F. Raymond Fosberg Papers, c. 1945-1993, Box 6, Miscellaneous Ceylon materials, 1974-1976. This folder contains miscellaneous correspondence and materials from Raymond Fosberg’s research on the flora of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). Most of the contents have to do with the logistics of collecting speciems and conducting research overseas, but there are a few items that caught my attention.
First, there are several loose stamps in the folder, depicting the various places of origin for the letters Fosberg received. Having an uncle who is an avid philatelist, these piqued my interest. One of the stamps is an image of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister of Ceylon from 1956 to 1959, who appeared on a series of postage stamps in 1973 and 1974. There are also two stamps depicting the Library of Fundazium de Planta in Samedan, Switzerland. The most colorful stamps found in this folder appear on an envelope from K. L. D. Amaratunga, Systematic Botantist at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sri Lanka, to Dr. Fosberg. The first stamp is of a rare rhododendron found in the highlands of Sri Lanka, and the second one is of a pair of black ruby barbs typically found in streams around Sri Lanka.
In addition to the stamps, the folder contained a number of newspaper articles from the Washington Post. A few of these articles related to finances at the Smithsonian, including a request by S. Dillion Ripley for more funding and an investigation into how money was being spent. There was also an obituary for psychiatrist Dr. Edward A. Houghton, which was published in the Washington Post on September 27, 1976.
Vote Folder A for Record Unit 515, Hirshhorn Office of the Registrar, Loan and Exhibition Records, circa 1970-1985, Box 6, Folder Miscellaneous - Indianapolis Museum of Art
Vote Folder B for Record Unit 7338, Oscar L. Cartwright Papers, 1929-1979 and undated, Box 16, Folder Miscellaneous Reports, Publications, and Photographs, 1951-1979 (2 folders)
Around the World in 60 Years: The Traveling Field Books of F. Raymond Fosberg, The Field Book Project
Miscellaneous Adventures, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
At the end of the summer, my responsibilities expanded to include treatment of items designated for digitization as part of the Field Book Project. This brings a whole new slate of interesting and challenging treatments, including opportunities to treat damaged bindings of the journals scientists frequently brought with them into the field. As the Field Book Project has moved forward, the subject areas of the field notes have expanded accordingly. Recently we have begun drawing from the collections of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology, previously unexplored by our digitization team.
This field book from the collections of Paul Bartsch documents a voyage into the Philippines, investigating a specific group of marine invertebrates called nudibranchs. These beautiful creatures are brightly colored and come in a large variety of shapes, and these characteristics are thought to be camouflage mechanisms.
As you can see, the images are gorgeously rendered, and have aged well. The artist has been identified as Kumataro Ito, a Japanese illustrator whose skill is clearly evident. Miniscule inscriptions in Japanese appear on many of the images, and these feature unique information not always captured in the descriptions made by Bartsch.
The book is in poor shape at the moment, and to build excitement for the volume’s eventual entrance in the Transcription Center, I wanted to briefly share my plans for its treatment and share these images of the nudibranchs to whet the public’s appetite.
The treatment plan is simple: Many of the pages are damaged along the spinefolds, so these will all be mended; the book will be sewn back together in keeping with its original structure, and the missing spine of the book will be replaced so that it returns to being a functional volume. While the plan is straightforward, it will be time-consuming, given the level of damage.
We look forward to sharing more of this with you in the near future!
Smithsonian Institution Archives projects, Smithsonian Transcription Center
Where in the World Is That Field Book?, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
The Field Book Project: Uncovering Hidden Gems at the Smithsonian, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives