The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Cities/Places
Recently the Archives was contacted by Mark Silverschotz, formerly Ultimate Frisbee player at Columbia University and then law student at Georgetown, was among the dozens of staff instructors recruited by Larry Schindel, founder of the Washington Area Frisbee Club. Silverschotz was interested in looking for images of himself and his friends during the 1978 Frisbee Festival on the Mall.
Not ever hearing of the event I had to do some research through our green negative log books and I was fascinated to see that the Archives had 38 rolls of film from just the 1970’s.
Sponsored by the National Air and Space Museum, the festival included exhibitions of disc tricks and moves by disc champions, both human and canine alike. Also during the festival, workshops were held to help show Frisbee enthusiast, young and old, how to maneuver the small Frisbee discs.
Silverschotz’s was kind enough to provide me with his recollection of the 1978 festival:
What was great about the 1978 festival, other than seeing Apollo 11's Mike Collins hanging out with a bunch of Ultimate players, was the chance to reconnect with people from the larger Frisbee community. And to give disc sports an air of legitimacy. One somewhat controversial aspect of the event was an effort by some to focus on the 'non-competitive" nature of simple Frisbee tossing. But the Ultimate players would have none of that, and successfully insisted on conducting a robust demonstration game. On the freestyle side of things, Erwin and Jens Velasquez, then reigning 'freestyle" champions gave a rousing demonstration of their skills. What was most fun, however, was when the instructors broke off from the group, each finding a dozen or so 'civilians' who wanted to improve their disc throwing technique. All in all, it was a great event.
- Accession 11-009 - Smithsonian Photographic Services, Photographic Collection, 1971-2006, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Very little is known about the personal life of Jean Louis Berlandier. Born ca. 1805 in France near the Swiss border, Berlandier sought education as a pharmacist, however, his study of Botany under the tutelage of Auguste-Pyramede de Candolle at the Academy of Geneva piqued his interest in the natural sciences, and drew him onto a path that would broaden with every step. Curiously, and perhaps completely unforeseen to Berlandier, this path, which began in Geneva, would end in Matamoros, Mexico, 1851.
Berlandier’s extensive fieldwork as a naturalist began in 1826, when, at the suggestion of de Candolle, Berlandier joined the Mexican Boundary Commission (Comision de Limites) as a botanist and zoologist. He remained with the Mexican Boundary Commission through 1829, collecting and cataloging botanical and zoological specimens in throughout northeastern Mexico and southeastern Texas. In the fall of 1828, Berlandier accompanied Col. Jose Francisco Ruiz and Comanche Indian leaders on a hunting trip up the Guadalupe River into what is now Texas, northwest of San Antonio. It was during this excursion that Berlandier began to consciously observe and note the practices of the Plains Indians while continuing his collection of botanical specimens.
A devoted student of science, Berlandier kept detailed meteorological and astronomical journals throughout his lifetime. These notes continue to aid scholars and are among the oldest and most complete records of this variety for southeastern Texas/northeastern Mexico. Please see the finding aid for Record Unit 7052: Jean Louis Berlandier Papers, 1826-1851, and related papers to 1886, specifically the listing for Boxes 1–11, for further details.
Upon the dissolution of the Mexican Boundary Commission in 1829, Berlandier settled in Matamoros, Mexico, where he practiced as a physician and pharmacist, while continuing collecting natural history specimens, concentrating on birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. He spent the rest of his life in Matamoros, studying local culture, building his medical practice, collecting specimens, observing the increasing tensions between the United States, Mexico, and native peoples. Jean Louis Berlandier’s life came to an untimely end in 1851. While crossing the San Fernando River on horseback, as he had done many, many times, the unusually swift currents of the river pulled him under, and would not let go.
Fortunately, many of Berlandier’s notes and journals were saved and continue to be studied by scholars. The Archives collection of Berlandier Papers consists of materials purchased from Berlandier’s widow in 1853 by Lieutenant Darius Nash Couch. This collection includes Berlandier’s extensive meteorological notes, natural history manuscripts, and a remarkable collection of drawings and watercolors depicting several specimens of birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Personally, I find the drawings breathtaking; not only are they more than 150 years old, they are vibrant, detailed, and demonstrate the level of devotion Berlandier presumably held for the study of natural history. Berlandier’s contemporaries acknowledged the significance of his contributions as a naturalist by bestowing his name on a tortoise he “discovered” and documented, Gopherus berlandieri. For Berlandier's description of the Emys bicolor tortoise above, please click here.
There are additional collections of Jean Louis Berlandier at Harvard University’s Gray Herbarium Library, Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the University of Texas at Austin’s Briscoe Center.
- Record Unit 7052 - Jean Louis Berlandier Papers, 1826-1851, and related papers to 1886, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Guide to the Jean Louis Berlandier Papers, 1826-1829, University of Texas at Austin Collection
- Papers of Jean Louis Berlandier, 1825-1855, Harvard University, Gray Herbarium Library
- Jean Louis Berlandier Papers, 1813-1847, n.d, Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
- Berlandier’s tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri), ARKive
My son and I recently spent a sick day watching "Sesame Street" reruns. One of the episodes was "National Try a New Food Day!" in which each segment involved one of the characters trying a new food or one prepared in a new way. This special day appears to be fictional, but I decided to use examples from the show to convince my toddler to try mashed potatoes (it didn't work).
The National Zoo Park restaurant used to have its own version of "Try a New Food Day" in the form of the Anteaters Association.
The Anteaters Association was an informal group established in 1944. A search of the press reveals many conflicting accounts of the origin of the group and its name. During an oral history interview (Record Unit 9513), Lucile Quarry Mann recalls that it was the result of a fireside chat between William M. Mann, Director of the National Zoological Park, and L. Gordon Leech, Manager of the independently-operated National Zoo Park Restaurant. It was autumn and Leech was concerned about business now that zoo attendance had dropped. The two men discussed serving special luncheons featuring wild game to bring diners to the restaurant during the colder months. Mrs. Mann recounts a story in which she told her husband and Leech, "Oh, you’re just a bunch of anteaters!" in response to the idea, thereby inspiring the group’s name (she also notes that she doesn't actually remember saying this, but both her husband and Leech insisted this is what happened). Listen to Lucile talk about the origins of the Anteaters Associations below.
. Lucile Quarry Mann discusses the origins of the Anteaters Association, Record Unit 9513, Interview 5 by Pamela Henson, Oral History Interviews with Lucile Quarry Mann, 1977, Smithsonian Institution Archives.
The Anteaters Association grew from an occasional luncheon to a multi-day event open to members and invited guests only. It became popular among Smithsonian and National Geographic administrators as well as local bankers, government officials, and anyone else who had the time for a leisurely weekday lunch. Featured meats ranged from the relatively tame pheasant to elephant steak, kangaroo, and whale blubber. Mrs. Mann noted that they had iguana tail once (the only edible part of the iguana), but it wasn’t very popular. "It looked all right on the plate, but anybody who’d seen it in the kitchen, I think, kind of lost their appetite."
Dick West, a United Press International columnist, was invited to a luncheon in November 1960. He says of the invitation, " . . . when I opened it my stomach began flip-flopping like a troupe of Russian gymnasts . . . I have followed its activities for yerrs [sic] with a fascination bordering on nausea." The luncheon featured barbecued elk tidbits and roasted buffalo. His research assistant, Dr. Zhivago, apparently ate the meal with relish, but West declared that he was now a vegetarian.
Raymond J. Crowley, an Associated Press columnist, also had some trepidation prior to attending his first Anteaters Association luncheon in November 1964. He purchased a cheese sandwich to take with him so that he wouldn't starve if he couldn't stomach the hippopotamus. Crowley, however, was more adventurous than West. He notes, "It looked like dark colored roast beef, rather tough. So your correspondent put his cheese sandwich back in his pocket and ate hippo. It tasted just the way it looked.”
Sometime in the mid 1960s, Leech was outbid on the zoo restaurant contract (it was put out to bid every 3 years) and he opened a restaurant called “The Explorer” in Rockville, Maryland. The Anteaters Association continued at the new location, but the restaurant was never a financial success.
- Throwback Thursday: Anteaters Open Season with Roast Elephant, DC Public Library
- Accession 01-157 – Marion P. McCrane Papers, 1962-1989, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 9513 – Oral History Interviews with Lucile Quarry Mann, 1977, Smithsonian Institution Archives