The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Science History
Though Roxie Laybourne may be a well-known topic here in the Smithsonian Institution Archives, there is a good reason she is so popular. From good advice to her pioneering career to modern day inspiration, her work offers new insight each time we turn to it.
Laybourne’s interest in natural history began long before she began her career: rather than join her siblings’ games, she preferred to be outdoors as a child. From this early beginning, she continued to Meredith College, nurturing an independent streak, studying math and general science. After working at the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, the National Fisheries Laboratory, and earning a Master’s degree at George Washington University on mosses, Laybourne began a sixty-year career at the National Museum of Natural History with a short-term appointment in the Division of Birds. Working at different times for both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Museum’s Division of Birds, she pioneered the new field of forensic ornithology.
Over a six-decade career, anyone would make a mark at the Smithsonian, but her sharp mind, energy level and determination ensured she had a large impact. Over those years, she lived by a few simple rules that guided her career: 1. Share your knowledge. 2. Keep your mouth shut. 3. Keep an open mind. Keep it your whole life. 4. Take care of your body.
Though each rule is important, the first set her apart. Though she worked hard – through evenings and weekends, and without vacations – she always had time to share what she knew with others. Roxie mentored graduate students, taught classes at George Mason University, and evening classes for the public at the Smithsonian. Her willingness to share her hard-earned knowledge inspired her students to careers in ornithology and beyond. If you had a sincere interest and were willing to work hard, she would help you.
Even as early as the 1930s and 1940s, when jobs were scarce and Laybourne was just starting in her career, this commitment was already in full force. Working at the North Carolina State Museum of Natural History as a taxidermist and a collector, she served as a bird study counselor for Boy Scouts working on their Eagle Award. They became her first generation of students. While working towards their Eagle Award, the scouts had to pass a test on bird identification. To help the boys pass the test, Laybourne offered Sunday afternoon bird walks to teach them how to recognize different species. Wartime fuel restrictions meant they didn’t ride anywhere. She met the boys at the local country club and hiked the edge of the golf course. All that walking must have done a lot of good – the boys who came for that study group passed their requirements, and most of them became Eagle Scouts. And Laybourne had hooked them on natural history – many kept it up for the rest of their lives, bringing their own children up to be interested in birds.
For Roxie, this was all a part of her work, and part of the Smithsonian mission to increase and diffuse knowledge. She explained, “To me, I feel, when you are given the opportunity to learn, why then you have a responsibility to share it with someone else so that you can have them build on your knowledge and go farther forward than you could by yourself.”
- Roxie Laybourne In Memoriam
- Roxie Laybourne: A Bird of Many Feathers, Bigger Picture Blog
- Roxie Laybourne: Remembering a Groundbreaker, Bigger Picture Blog
- Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, Bigger Picture Blog
- Meet the Birds of the National Mall, Bigger Picture Blog
- One of the oldest photo archives, the George Eastman House, recently published a quarter million photos online. [via Hyperallergic]
- A groundbreaking astrophysicist, Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter, died at 88. [via NPR]
- How NOT to preserve a digital archive. [via Preservica]
- What does Star Wars have to do with digital preservation? The Data Formats of Star Wars Suck [via Motherboard]
- Over 70,000 Creative Commons videos are now available online via Dutch project, Videorooter. [via Kennisland]
- It's the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa, and there are 2 more days left! [via History Channel]
- Embrace winter with a video of sled dogs! [via National Anthropological Archives]
- An Archivists' call-to-action, in song, from the Society of American Archivists, and Garrison Keeler.
- A new exhibit from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum examines clothing waste. [via Hyperallergic]
- The first curator of Media and Performance Art, Mark Beasely, was appointed at the Hirshhorn. [via Artnet]
- A new book is out about the team of Harvard female "computers" who analyzed a large collection of photographic plates of stars. Help the Smithsonian transcribe their work. [via Atlantic]
- A new project, Story Quest, seeks to capture the stories of WWII veterans before it's too late. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- An inspiring plan is underway in London to light a large span of the Thames River. [via NY Times]
- 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...
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