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From the Stacks 

March 19, 2010

Biodiversity Heritage Library News

Just a quick post to give everyone an update about the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

For those new to these parts, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is a consortium of 12 major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions organized to digitize, serve, and preserve the legacy literature of biodiversity. The Academy Library is proud to be one of these institutions, and I’ve blogged a bit about our participation in the past here and here. Here’s an example of the fantastic literature (and pretty pictures) you can access for FREE at http://biodiversitylibrary.org.

Geospiza strenua, from The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. Image courtesy Biodiversity Heritage Library. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org

This week brought two BHL tidbits I’d like to share:

1) The BHL is conducting a user survey to help us serve you better. If you’ve used the BHL at all in the past, please take our survey. It will take 5-10 minutes of your time and help us immensely. Thanks in advance! Also, if you follow me on Twitter @tiny_librarian, feel free to retweet my latest update on the survey.

2) The BHL was selected by the American Library Association’s Office for Library Advocacy as the Digital Library of the Week! We’re in good company, joining honorees such as the Cornell University Library Witchcraft Collection and On the Edge: The Hidden Art of Fore-Edge Book Painting from the Boston Public Library.

While we accept accolades in all forms, we also really want you tell us where we need improvement. Ten minutes of your time now means a better BHL in the future!

Filed under: Library News,Research — Librarian @ 1:13 pm

February 25, 2010

Recent Acquisition

As the Academy’s archivist one of my primary responsibilities is to collect materials related to Academy history, the records of Academy departments, and the work of our scientists. We have approximately four hundred manuscript collections that contain materials like field notes, journals, diaries, photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, film, and even some collecting equipment. By collecting the working papers of our scientists we preserve them for use by current and future researchers.

One of our recent accessions came from Betsey Cutler’s daughters. Betsey Cutler was a curatorial assistant in our Ornithology and Mammology department and her daughters brought in 35 mm slides, two notebooks of species accounts, several research folders, lab notes, card files, and field notes. Some of the donated items are research materials and notes from Betsey’s unpublished manuscript “The Syrinx of Darwin’s Finches”. According to Kathleen Berge from O&M, “Academy Research Associate Sylvia Hope is planning on adding recent related findings into the text and the literature”. Some of the materials from this acquisition will help Sylvia update Betsey’s manuscript.

Portrait of Betsey Cutler from the Academy photo department archive.

Sharon Beals has been photographing some of the nests in our Ornithology and Mammalogy department. Here is a wonderful photo of a Marsh Wren nest that Betsey Cutler collected.


©Sharon Beals

Marsh Wren

Cistothorus palustris

San Francisco, Lake Merced, 20 May 1962

North America, California, San Francisco County


California Academy of Sciences

Collector: Betsey Cutler

Here is another photo by Sharon Beals of a bank swallow nest that Bestey Cutler collected.

Riparia riparia

©Sharon Beals

Bank Swallow Nest

nest collected from
Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA

Collection of The California Academy of Sciences

Bank Swallow
Riparia riparia
North America, USA, California, San Francisco Co, San Francisco
Ocean Beach 06 June 1960
CAS 10751

– Danielle Castronovo

Archives & Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Archives,Research — Archives & Special Collections @ 10:33 am

November 24, 2009

On “Origin” and “Evidence”

Being a librarian, I tend to think of my work life as a series of questions and answers. Answering questions is essentially what I do for a living, and answers are the product of a hard day’s work.

I was quite happy to pick up Evidence of Evolution, a new book with text by Mary Ellen Hannibal and photographs by Susan Middleton, and see that it begins with questions.

Quoth Mary Ellen: “Why do butterfly wings have so many different patterns, and if a snake is a reptile and an eel a fish, why do they look so similar? A hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin addressed these questions with the publication of his seminal work, On the Origin of Species. In it, Darwin posited the theory of evolution based on natural selection as the answer.”

150 years ago today – November 24, 1859 – Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published. Evolution was not a new idea, but the concept of descent with modification, the idea that change is powered by modifications in gene frequency over time, driven by a process dubbed “natural selection” captured the scientific imagination. All the copies of Origin (only about 1,250 were printed in the first run) sold out on the first day.

It is a fitting time to celebrate the publication of Darwin’s great work alongside the release of Evidence of Evolution. This new book features spectacular photographs of specimens from the Academy’s research collections, accompanied by text that illuminates how scientists see and use these specimens as, well, evidence for evolution.

It is the sign of an important question that we’re still contributing to the answer 150 years later.

Evidence of Evolution, photography by Susan Middleton and text by Mary Ellen Hannibal is available for purchase from the Academy’s Scientific Publications.

Since a copy of a first edition of Origin just sold for $172,000 US at auction, picking up a copy of Evidence of Evolution is a more affordable way to commemorate this momentous day.

Keep asking questions!

Filed under: Photography,Research — Librarian @ 12:55 pm

October 26, 2009

Keep Open Access Week going!

Open Access Week has officially come & gone, but that doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about Open Access!

Our very own Science in Action crew at the Academy are keeping OA Week going with a new edition of SIA about Open Access, the Public Library of Science (PLoS), and Breast Cancer Action.

Check out the newest installment of Science in Action, in which I share but one opinion on the value of PLoS and OA.

If you like this piece, be sure to visit Science in Action to learn more.

Filed under: Library News,Research — Librarian @ 3:33 pm
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