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Connecting Content 

August 16, 2011

Welcome to Richard and Stephanie, our summer Connecting Content interns

This blog post was originally posted at From the Stacks: the Academy Library blog on June 13, 2011

We are very excited to welcome the new Summer Connecting Content interns to the California Academy of Sciences. Although we are sad to see our Fall intern Josh Roselle leave, he has produced a great foundation for our incoming interns to build on.

Our Information Connections intern is Richard Fischer. Although his internship is with the California Academy of Sciences he will be working at our partner site, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and will be focused on establishing appropriate connections between digitized field books, natural history specimens and the published literature in the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Richard Fischer graduated from the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, City University of New York, in May 2011 with a Master of Library Science degree and a Certificate in Archives and Preservation of Cultural Materials. While working on his degree, Richard interned at the Louis Armstrong House Museum Archives, the New-York Historical Society Library Manuscript Division, and the American Museum of Natural History Research Library Special Collections and Archives. He was a Queens College Libraries Special Collections Fellow for the 2010-2011 academic year. Richard holds a BA in English from Rutgers University.

Our Collections Scanning intern is Stephanie Stewart Bailey. She will be working at the California Academy of Sciences and focusing on digitizing fieldnotes and specimens from the 1906/06 Galapagos exhibition for our pilot project.

Stephanie is an interdisciplinary artist pursuing a master’s thesis in museum studies, integrating art with science. Interested in the reuse of museum space through the representation of the physical human body, she strives to make museums accessible to everyone by the means of artistic installations and spaces like the Project Lab at the Academy of Sciences. By holding an internship with the Connecting Content team, she hopes to make connections with dedicated science professionals to further investigate the natural world with hands on experience. She is also excited to investigate possible educational strategies by interpreting this project for the public, through the glass wall of the Project Lab.
With a fascination for the natural world, Stephanie collects specimen from birds to insects and fossils, to incorporate in her artistic process. She holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in photography and performance art and has worked at the Smithsonian and Göteborg Natural History Museums, and at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago. She is currently a Museum Studies Graduate Student from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. You can see some of her recent thesis work in natural history museums at http://thebodyappropriate.tumblr.com/

Daina Dickman, Project Manager


Filed under: Interns — ddickman @ 11:04 am

Galapagos Islands 1905-1906 Digitization Project Update: Imaging Finch Specimens

This blog post was originally posted at From the Stacks: the Academy Library blog on May 12, 2011

I am almost at the end of my 16-week internship at the Academy Library, and I am excited to have started imaging finch specimens. This is part of the Connecting Content project, which has been made possible with grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This project involves digitizing and providing access to expedition field notes and avian specimens from a 1905-1906 expedition to the Galapagos Islands. At the end of the project the finch specimen images will be available through the Encyclopedia of Life.

During the first few months of the project I worked on digitizing the expedition field notes while we prepared for imaging the finches. A lot of planning and experimenting had to be done before we could begin, and I learned a lot along the way.

The finch collection from this expedition consists of over 4,000 specimens; this includes numerous species collected from many of the islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. Before beginning this project, the project staff had to figure out how we would select the 1,000 specimens that will be imaged as our sample from this collection.

Through our selection process we want to provide researchers and users with a balanced and deep collection, so we are imaging a proportional sample of each species, including an equal sampling of male and female specimens, from every island where they were collected.

One of the goals of this project is to provide researchers with the ability to view these images online and conduct research remotely, so it was important that we considered image quality, camera angles, and image uniformity. After discussions with staff scientists and researchers we are taking six images of each specimen, from different points of view. This includes shots of the ventral (belly), dorsal (back), lateral (side), and head/beak of the finches, as well as the front and back sides of the collection tags. The collection tags are important as they contain information such as the genus, species, collection date, specimen number, and the island where they were collected.

The bird specimens must be handled carefully. Although they are quite rigid, some parts of them may break or come off with rough or excessive handling, particularly their feathers and legs. Each specimen is gently placed on a uniform background with a ruler and a color bar before the photograph is taken. The color bar allows us, as well as the user, to gauge color representation and accuracy.

The camera that we are using for this part of the project is a Canon E05 5D with a 50mm lens. It creates highly detailed and crisp images. One can zoom in and view incredible detail, including individual strands of feathers, and even dandruff particles. The camera is attached to a custom-built mount, and is affectionately known as “the Big Kahuna.” This equipment was provided by Academy curator of Herpetology Bob Drewes. You can read about his ongoing work teaching about and studying the incredible biodiversity of Sao Tome and Principe on his blog.

It has been fun and a great learning experience to work on this project. Although my internship is coming to an end in a couple of weeks, I am certain you will be hearing more about the progress of this exciting project from the staff and other interns over the next couple of years.

Josh Roselle


Filed under: Digitization,Fieldnotes,Interns,Specimens — ddickman @ 11:02 am

Connecting Content: Galapagos Islands 1905-1906 Expedition Field Notes Digitization, Project Update

This blog post was originally posted at From the Stacks: the Academy Library blog on March 24, 2011

Since my last blog post I have finished scanning the field notes of Alban Stewart, the expedition botanist, and I have moved on to Washington Ochsner’s geology field notes. The pages are unbound and very brittle, so I have to be quite gentle with them and handle them as little as possible.

During the year the expedition was in the Galapagos, the scientists went to several islands multiple times. It seems that after the expedition these notes were reordered by island, so I check closely while scanning to make sure that the pages are not out of place.

Ochsner’s geology journal is divided into four sections:

The first, and largest section, is comprised of notes and general observations. It describes geological formations, strata, and rock composition. In this section he often describes a formation or an island’s origin, and explains how it may relate to other islands in the Galapagos chain. This section also contains interesting figures and maps to help visualize the descriptions. The maps and figures show rock strata and geological formations— such as lakes, cliffs, craters, and volcanic formations—with numbers or alpha-notations connecting features to the notes. These have been some of my favorite parts of the notes. I enjoy cartography, particularly old maps, and it is fascinating to read through Ochsner’s notes and connect them to his drawings.

Ochsner called the second section “occasional ideas.” These seem to be general thoughts that did not fit in with the notes on specific islands. It also contains citations for literature related to his observations.

The third section is a rock specimen catalog. This section contains a list of rock specimens Ochsner, and other members of the expedition, collected on the various islands. He assigned the specimens a unique catalog number and also a number relating to where they were found.

The final section consists of photograph metadata. This is descriptive information that corresponds to images taken during the expedition.

I am almost finished digitizing Ochsner’s field notes, and, after receiving further training with the imaging hardware and software, I will probably begin taking high resolution digital images of finch specimens. It should be lots of fun!

Josh Roselle


Filed under: Digitization,Fieldnotes,Interns — ddickman @ 10:59 am

July 22, 2011

Connecting Content: 1905-1906 Galapagos Expedition Field Notes

This blog post was originally posted at From the Stacks: the Academy Library blog on March 11, 2011

The California Academy of Sciences was recently awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for a project called Connecting Content. This pilot project involves digitizing and providing access to expedition field notes and avian specimens from a 1905-1906 expedition to the Galapagos Islands, and I get to create the digital images! At the end of the project we will make the field notes available through the Biodiversity Heritage Library and specimen images available through the Encyclopedia of Life.

josh_inside_lab

Besides the scientific and research value of this collection, it is also one of the Academy’s oldest collections. While the expedition was in the Galapagos the 1906 Earthquake devastated San Francisco and destroyed the old Academy building along with many collections. The Galapagos expedition’s field notes and specimens became part of the foundation materials for the new Academy.

I have begun scanning the field notes of Alban Stewart, the expedition botanist. The notes are divided into three sections. In the first section Stewart tracked plant species he encountered and recorded them using a numbering system, and he provided brief notes about them.

stewart_mss448_0223_copy

The second section is composed of his journal. In the journal Stewart describes in greater detail the various species and locations of plants found on the many islands of the Galapagos Archipelago. Stewart would survey an area and describe species he found and note any particulars of their surroundings, including if they were abundant or scarce. Stewart’s journal traces the biodiversity of the flora in relation to other islands and continental regions. In his notes he often mentions other regions where these plants grow, and whether or not a species can be found on other islands in the chain.

The final section is a chart of air and water temperature readings. I was surprised to find that the water and air temperature readings were often very similar.

I am working in the project lab on the first floor, across from the rainforest dome. It is a high-tech lab where visitors can walk by and view ongoing projects and research being conducted live. It has been kind of fun to scan, view, and process the images on three large computer screens while visitors can peer in through the glass. We set up a display with some related artifacts from the expedition—such as a pith helmet, some of the field notes, an old camera, and an expedition group photograph—for visitors to view as well so that they can get an idea of what we are doing. A few special tours have come through the lab and it has been great to interact with them and explain the project, why it is important, and what we hope to accomplish. It is quite rare in the archive world to have this much engagement with the public, so I am hopeful we can help demystify archives a little and show people what we are doing to make important primary materials more accessible.

josh_outside_lab


– Josh Roselle


Filed under: Digitization,Fieldnotes,Interns — ddickman @ 11:40 am

June 14, 2011

About

Follow the progress of our IMLS-funded Connecting Content grant.

The California Academy of Sciences Library was awarded a 3 year IMLS National Leadership Grant and is working with partners at Missouri Botanical Garden, Harvard University Botany Libraries, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology Library, the New York Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. The project involves the digitization of field notebooks and natural history collections and the generation of metadata for these items to enable linking of content.

imls_logo_2c1


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:34 pm
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