The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Science History
- Get ready for this summer's big installation at the National Building Museum: Hive. [via WAPO]
- Want to play old school games like Frogger? The Internet Archive has a Mac game emulator for you! [via Wired]
- Produce art. [via Colossal]
- A series of tutorials from the American Alliance of Museums, Becoming a Data Startup (for museums). [via AAM]
- 470,000 images from Europeana are now available in Creative Commons via the Europeana API. [via Info Docket]
- In preparation for this weekend's Earth Optimism Summit hosted by the Smithsonian, a look at the Smithsonian's history of conservation science. [via Smithsonian Insider]
- One-stop (free) shopping for NASA's entire photo archive! [via Vice]
- Inside the NY Times morgue files.
- 3 entries in the Peeps diorama contest featured the Kusama exhibit at the Hirshhorn! [via Food & Wine]
- 2 fun Twitter accounts brought to you by bots: How Bots See Art and Public Domain Cut-Up.
- Hear an extinct language from 6000 years ago. [via Open Culture]
Scientific research has been integral to the Smithsonian, from its founding to today. The Smithsonian's founder, Englishman James Smithson, saw in the U.S. (according to his biographer, Heather Ewing) "a place of the future" that could support "science and progress for humanity." He believed that scientists were "citizens of the world" and that the work they did benefited everyone. He was a chemist and studied almost everything he encountered. Furthermore, the leaders of the Smithsonian, or secretaries, often had science backgrounds; physics, ornithology, paleontology, and archaelogy to name a few.
Today, Smithsonian scientists work around the world, in laboratories, observatories, and the field, studying topics that range from astrophysics to conservation biology to coastal ecosystems to tropical ecologies. As people gather in Washington D.C. for both the March for Science and the Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit, we look back at some of our scientists who have made science history at the Smithsonian and in the world.
- Science Service Records, 1920s-1970s, SIA Accession 90-105
- The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Library of Congress were able to pool funds to purchase a rare photo of a young Harriet Tubman. [via Washington Post]
- The Audobon profiles Smithsonian scientist, Roxie Laybourne, who started the field of forensic ornithology which identified birds involved in plane strikes and led to improved aviation safety.
- Smithsonian Gardens launched a new app to collect stories about gardens around the country.
- A fascinating look at what the Met's data reveals about it as an institution. [via FiveThirtyEight]
- Another doomsday vault in Norway, Arctic World Archive, will hold data from archives and libraries around the world. [via Verge]
- A fan of Bob Ross' PBS show, Joy of Painting, launched a website with the 403 paintings he created on air! [via Hyperallergic]
- Manatees may have been preemptively removed from the list of endangered species list. [via NPR]
- A look at the not-so-secret tunnel running underneath the National Mall between the Smithsonian's Castle and National Museum of Natural History.[via WJLA]
- Baby cheetah bonanza at the National Zoo! [via DCist]
On March 1, 2017, the first clouded leopard was born as the result of an artificial insemination procedure using frozen/thawed semen. Born at the Nashville Zoo, this cub represents decades of collaboration between the Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. The first successful artificial insemination of a clouded leopard was also performed at the Nashville Zoo, in 1992, by National Zoo theriogenologist JoGayle Howard.
Dr. Howard (whose research records are part of the Archives’ collections) dedicated her career to breeding endangered species in captivity by adapting techniques commonly used for human infertility treatment. Much of her research focused on felines - clouded leopards, cheetahs, fishing cats, Florida panthers, and even domestic cats - and she frequently collaborated with zoos and wildlife conservation organizations throughout the United States, Africa, and Asia.
Howard also oversaw the black footed ferret breeding program at the National Zoo. In the 1980s, there were only 18 individuals left. Under her supervision, more than 500 kits were born, including more than 100 by artificial insemination. Many of these animals have been reintroduced into the wild. For her leadership in the effort, Howard was named "Recovery Champion" by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009.
The most famous result of her work was the birth of giant panda Tai Shan in 2005. Reproduction rates for giant pandas were low at zoos and breeding centers worldwide and the National Zoo had not produced a healthy panda cub after almost three decades of attempts. Howard worked with Chinese colleagues to develop new protocols for sperm cryopreservation and artificial insemination which contributed to a sharp increase in panda births. Howard was personally responsible for the artificial insemination of Mei Xiang, the National Zoo's female panda, that resulted in the birth of its first surviving cub.
Howard's success in the field of assisted reproduction earned her the nickname "Sperm Queen." In fact, her research records include thousands of images of both sperm and ova, as well as thousands of pages of sperm and ova data and data analysis. She was also a tireless and passionate champion for endangered species, who looked beyond biology to animal behavior and diet in order to understand the bigger picture. She also readily shared her knowledge, expertise, and skills with hundreds of fellows, interns, veterinarians, and wildlife specialists, and even the general public through interviews and television programs.
Howard died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 59, but left behind new clouded leopard facilities at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, reams of reproductive data, new protocols for breeding, a generation of veterinarians building upon her work, and healthier populations of several endangered species.
- Leopard Lifesaver: Smithsonian Scientist JoGayle Howard, SmithsonianScience YouTube
- The Smithsonian Mourns: Dr. JoGayle Howard, Wildlife Biologist (1951-2011), Smithsonian Magazine
- Accession 17-101, National Zoological Park, Department of Reproductive Sciences, Animal Research Records, 1980-2010, Smithsonian Institution Archives
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