The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Science History
- Join us and other archives around the U.S. to ask questions on Twitter Wednesday, 10/5. #AskAnArchivist [via SAA]
- A new project looking at the role photography plays in science, with an essay from our own, Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette on the credit due to scientist Rosalind Franklin. [via curator Marvin Heiferman]
- The International Criminal Court has ruled that destroying cultural sites is a war crime. [via Art Newspaper]
- UK's Natural History Museum has released 300,000 dinosaurs (including some VR) to Google's Arts & Culture site. [via Huffington Post]
- Great horn spoon! Check out these old-fashioned swear words. [via Mental Floss]
- Fun for the family: the National Archives just released a new collection of gifs! [via Washingtonian]
- Some web archiving news from SAA's 2016 Partner Meeting. [via SAA]
- The black female mathematicians who helped to put men on the moon in segregated America. [via NPR]
- The precursor to Pantone, Smithsonian Ornithologist Robert Ridgway...and check out his bird studies in our collection! [via Hyperallergic]
- And in case you missed our behind-the-scenes with Smithsonian historian, Pam Henson...
Earlier this month, the F.B.I. Art Crimes Team returned a letter from Charles Darwin, dated May 2, 1875, to an unnamed addressee, to the Smithsonian Institution Archives. This event was the culmination of some good old-fashioned sleuthing, but one mystery remains--who was the unnamed recipient in the letter?
Although Darwin never named his correspondent, there are clues in the letter to help solve, or at least point the finger, at who it was.
First, the date: May 2, 1875.
Second, the body of the letter: Darwin writes, “My dear Sir,
I am much obliged to you for your kindness and for the favour [sic] which you have done me in sending your Geological Report of the Yellowstone River & your Preliminary Field Report of Colorado and New Mexico.”
The letter’s date, and the publications Darwin acknowledges, indicate that the mystery man is very likely Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden who led an expedition to the West in 1873, also known as the Hayden Survey. Hayden also published the two reports mentioned by Darwin in this letter. But why is this letter in the George P. (Perkins) Merrill Collection?
George P. Merrill was a geologist and contemporary of Hayden who had access to Hayden’s papers while he was writing his two histories of American Geology. Two Darwin letters (the one returned and another undated one) are in the autograph file Merrill compiled of American Geologists and other notable persons. And, I guess it’s fair to say that, Merrill may have been the first to “appropriate” Darwin’s letter of May 2, 1875. So there you have it, many mysteries solved with the help of archives and archivists.
- F.B.I. Art Crime Team, Fedeal Bureau of Investigation
- Deconstructing a Mystery: Rare photo proves to be the earliest ever taken of the Smithsonian Castle, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7177, George P. Merrill Collection, circa 1800-1930 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives
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