Hot Topix in Archival Research, Spring 2018

We highlight a few topics explored this spring 2018 by researchers at the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

This is the latest post in our "Hot Topixseries.  In each quarterly edition we show you what the reference team has been up to, and bring you some of the more notable inuqires we have received.

Vicarious research is one of the great joys of the reference desk at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. From our front-row (well, only-row) seat outside the reading room, we catch tantalizing glimpses of our patrons’ manifold research topics.

The reference team fields around 9,000 queries per year. Ask us what people have been researching recently, and you’ll get into some of the enlightening, weird, and fascinating details of collections at the Smithsonian Institutive Archives. Here is a sample of the diverse questions our researchers have been exploring for the past few months!

"Laser 10: The First Ten Years of Laser Technology" Exhibition

Over the past three months, researchers have delved into:

 Black and white half-plate daguerreotype of a woman seen from the chest up, image is in a black fram

Permissions for upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

A women-in-science social media storm!

In March, the Archives’ outreach and reference teams caught wind of a viral tweet from illustrator Candace Jean Andersen, who hoped to identify the sole unidentified figure--and only African-American woman--in a 1971 group photo from a whale biology conference. The Twitter thread passed through networks of marine biologists and women of color in STEM before reaching the reference inbox. By that point, the Twitterverse had tentatively identified the figure as Sheila Minor. She was thought to have attended the conference as a Smithsonian employee alongside supervisor Clyde Jones.

Sure enough, a search of the Records of the United States Marine Mammal Program, surfaced Sheila Minor's name among hotel receipts for the conference! We also found a biographical file documenting Ms. Minor's years as a Biological Research Technician with the Chesapeake Bay Center for Environmental Studies (CBCES)--today's Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, or SERC. Now, you can read and contribute to Sheila Minor's Wikipedia page, or help out with SIA's women in science “to-do list.”


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