The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Flattened Between the Pages
Last June, I joined the Smithsonian Center for Archives Conservation at the Smithsonian Institution Archives as a pre-Master's program art conservation summer intern. My focus was on the preservation and rehousing of scientist’s exploration journals that are part of the Field Book Project. In September, I was fortunate to remain at the Archives as the conservation technician for the Field Book Project. Over the past year I've flipped through hundreds of field books containing fascinating information that detail collected field data, as well as the author's experiences with indigenous cultures from around the world. Surprisingly, I've even come across an endearing poem or two nestled amongst daily diary entries or numbered lists of technical field data. It's been a pleasure to discover that the scientists who authored these books were quite creative in how they depicted their observations and gathered scientific information while in the field. At the time in which many of these explorations took place (often pre-photography), the noted interactions and observations of the author best depicted life in exotic and foreign locations.
My involvement and contribution to this project wraps up in a couple of months, but I wanted to share some of the more fascinating items I've found pressed between the pages of the field books I've come across; items that are great descriptors of life while away on an exploration.