The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Environment
- OUCH! There’s a reason why “auto polo” never took as a professional sport. This gem comes from the Library of Congress’ Flickr Commons stream [via Neatorama].
- The Smithsonian’s Secretary on how we’re working to make the Institution a more sustainable place.
- Okay, so maybe you’re tired of the “What you think” meme, but check it out for a chuckle: “What Archivists Do” [via Marguerite Roby, SIA].
- “Every week, 20,000 new volumes arrive . . .” It’s the Internet Archive, but they still have a tremendous physical archive [via Marvin Heiferman].
- The Smithsonian owes its very existence to a coin? The National Museum of American History blog profiles the bequest of James Smithson, the founder of the Smithsonian.
- Dan Brown film trailer or exhibition announcement?: “100 original documents, preserved for 400 years in the Popes’ Archive, will leave the confines of the Vatican City walls for the first time in history, and will be admired at the Capitoline Museums in Rome, from 1st March till September 2012, for the exhibition Lux in arcana - The Vatican Secret Archives reveals itself” [via @archivesireland].
How many birds have you seen recently? For over one hundred years, birders around the world have paid special attention to more than just the two turtle doves, counting how many birds were near their homes in December. On Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed the first ever “Christmas Bird Count” or Census, as part of the Audubon Naturalist Society’s programs. An officer in the new Society, Chapman wanted to replace the common practice of the “Christmas Side Hunt” where hunters would shoot birds to see who could bring in the biggest pile of feathers that day. Twenty-five bird counts were held that first year, counting some ninety species. In December 2008, almost 60,000 bird watchers participated in 2,113 organized Bird Counts around the globe.
The Archives holds the official records of the Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States, and so it has good documentation of the growth of this program over time. Christmas Bird Count information can be found in many of our other collections. For example, the Smithsonian’s sixth Secretary, Alexander Wetmore (1886-1978), developed an interest in ornithology as a small boy growing up in North Freedom, Wisconsin. He wrote his first article, "My Experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker,” for the journal Bird Lore, when he was only fourteen and learned taxidermy through a correspondence course. By the time he entered the University of Kansas in 1904, he was participating in Christmas Bird Counts, establishing connections with the larger ornithological community. That year he noted that he observed birds from 8:40 am to 12:30 pm, on a mild Christmas day when the temperature ranged from 48 to 60 degrees with light northeast winds. Among the many birds he recorded was the lapland longspur and brown creeper, as well as the more common junco (250 counted) and robin (60 counted). We have the records from his early counts in the Wetmore Papers in the Archives, as well as those of many other ornithologists.
The Christmas Bird Count has not just switched people from shooting to observing. The records were carefully compiled by the Audubon Society allowing many different types of studies. Changes in bird populations could be observed over the decades, in response to loss of habitat and pesticide use. More recently, Christmas Bird Counts have demonstrated changes in bird migration patterns in response to changes in the climate. This massive data compilation is part of what is known today as “Citizen Science,” the participation of ordinary people in collecting large sets of data of great use to scientists. Visit the Audubon Society website if you’d like to participate and maybe find your partridge in a pear tree.
- Smithsonian Secretary Clough's most recent earthquake update.
- Whoa. For all you web nerds out there, check out this interactive timeline called, "The evolution of the web," which takes us through the birth and death of many a web browser, coding language, and web specific technology [via Swissmiss].
- A Smithsonian Institution Libraries intern recounts her internship experience, from Smithsonian steampunk to learning Latin in order to translate rare book titles.
- Earlier this week we mentioned Devra Kleiman, a scientist who headed up the National Zoo's Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program. Read more about Kleiman's work, and the importance of her field notes, over at the Field Book Project blog.
- Mad Men alert! Duke University Libraries has a very interesting collection of over 16,000 images of billboards from the likes of Heinz and Jim Beam in their Outdoor Advertising Association of America Archives [via The Scout Report].
- The National Museum of American History recently asked for help identifying the source of some Battlestar Galactica eyeglasses that they found in their medicine collections. Based on the wonderful comments in this blog post, I'd say they figured it out! Read more and watch the video below, which features museum technician Drew Robarge examining the glasses for clues about their origins:
"Seeing history through Battlestar Galactica glasses," Courtesy of the National Museum of American History YouTube Channel.