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From the Stacks 

January 3, 2011

1906 Academy Building

The Archives recently received a reference question that required some of my favorite kind of investigative work.  A researcher had viewed a 60 Minutes’ segment on a 1906 film shot in San Francisco.  The film was digitally restored by the Prelinger Archives and California Archivist, David Kiehn was able to identify the date of the film as being just days before the devastating April 18, 1906 earthquake and fire.  Our researcher wanted to know if the California Academy of Sciences building was visible in the video.

The Academy has had many homes in its 157 year history.  James Lick donated the Market Street property to the Academy in 1873 and after several legal battles, the Academy moved into the new building in 1891.  So according to the timeline, the Academy should be visible in the film. The building was built on the south side of Market and as the film is shot going east on Market, the Academy should be on the right hand side, near 4th Street.

The film begins on Market and 8th Street so I initially tried to count the blocks down to 4th Street.  This proved difficult as the film cuts in and out at times.  So I decided to try a different, more deductive approach.  The Call Building (sometimes referred to the Spreckles Building) stands out in the film.  If I could simply find out where the Academy was in relation to the Call Building, it would be easier to pinpoint.  The Call Building was located on Market and 3rd St.  So the Academy was certainly nearby.  I pulled up the Academy Library Image Gallery and found a photo of the Academy Building next to the Emporium Building.

The Academy is on the left and the Emporium is on the right (with the flag). N2369 - California Academy of Sciences

I then went to Calisphere’s 1906 collection and did a search on the Emporium Building hoping to find a photograph looking east down Market.  I found the perfect image.  I found the Academy next to the Emporium building with the Call building pictured down the street.  Now I could view the film again and recognize major landmarks to identify the Academy.

BANC PIC 19xx.112:095 - Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

The Call building is in view from the beginning of the film but by using the Bancroft photograph, I could better gage where to find the large Emporium building and subsequently, the smaller Academy building.  The Emporium building comes into full view at the three minute mark.  You can make out its roman column entrance on the right hand side of the screen.  The Academy is directly east of the Emporium.  If you pause the video at the 3:34 minute mark, you can see the Academy’s triangular entrance on the immediate right.  And just as quickly as it comes into view, it is gone.  A search on Calisphere will yield numerous pictures during the fire, some showing the Academy and some after the building had collapsed.

BANC PIC 2002.065:24--ALB - Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

It is interesting to note that in 1884, J.C. Flood offered the Academy $200,000 cash for the Market Street property but this offer was declined in committee.   The Flood building was completed in 1904 and was very close to the Academy building.  It survived the 1906 earthquake and fire.

Christina V. Fidler – Digital Projects Manager


Leviton, A. E., & Aldrch, M. L. (1997). Theodore Henry Hittell’s The California Academy of Sciences. A Narrative History: 1853-1906. Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences.

Filed under: Academy History,Archives — Archives & Special Collections @ 2:45 pm

December 17, 2010

Check out our New “Science in Action” Television Show Web page!

In the spring of 1950, “Science in Action” began as a fifteen minute segment on a popular Bay Area television program called “The Del Courtney Show.” Academy staffer Tom Groody made a guest appearance on the program during which time he discussed scientific topics and brought in animals from the Academy’s Steinhart Aquarium. The segment was wildly popular and Groody was invited to return and further discuss contemporary science issues. Eventually, Groody’s Science in Action segment became a regular thirteen week feature in the program.

"Science in Action" # 26 - "How Television Works"

“Science in Action” # 26 – “How Television Works”

Shortly thereafter, a half-hour weekly evening television series was developed to discuss timely and significant scientific subjects with guest scientists, demonstrations, and an animal of the week exhibition. By fall of 1950, the “Science in Action” television show was the first live science program on television in the country and forged the path for science programs as we know them today.

"Science in Action". Animal of the Week - Earl Herald, Anita Fiala and snakes.

“Science in Action”. Animal of the Week – Earl Herald, Anita Fiala and snakes.

In 1952, Academy superintendent Dr. Earl Herald took over the role as host of Science in Action. Herald’s spontaneity and charm quickly put guests at ease and made the topics easily understandable for the audience at large. The program raised public awareness and increased traffic to the Aquarium, especially the animal of the week exhibition, which featured wild animals on live television. In one reported incident, newly born water snakes had escaped from the set of Science in Action into the television studio during a live broadcast. Because of this publicity, over five thousand people stopped in to the Aquarium the following week asking to see the baby snakes. Additionally, it was not uncommon to see a handler get bit or an animal defecate and without missing a beat, Herald would offer the clever banter that endeared him to home audiences. In June of 1966, due to rising costs of production, Dr. Herald hosted the 626th and final episode of “Science in Action”.
Herald and Frey demonstrate Fiberglass Rockets
We are pleased to announce the newest addition to our library collections website: The Science in Action Television show archives. There you can learn about the items that the Academy holds in its Science in Action collection, which includes over a thousand reels of 16mm film, hundreds of scripts, and hundreds of photographs. Owing to preservation concerns and a lack of on site resources only digitally preserved versions of the television show can be viewed, and currently, very few of the films exist in this form. However, the films are available to be digitized for a fee, and we’re hopeful that the website will draw attention to the collection and generate contributions to the digitization effort.

Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Science in Action — Intern @ 3:02 pm

October 15, 2010

Farallon Islands items at Nightlife

I have been working with a researcher named Eva Chrysanthe who is writing and illustrating a graphic novel called The Farallon Egg War. Her graphic novel is almost done and we are both excited to have a table at the October 21 Farallon Nightlife at the Academy. She will have some of her original paintings and drafts of the graphic novel while I will feature some of the Library and Archive materials that she consulted as reference materials.

In the Archives, we have two collections that have striking historic images from the Farallones. The Arthur L. Bolton family papers contains fifty Farallon images from 1896 and 1897 including a lighthouse, a shipwreck, an egger’s shoes, and men collecting bird eggs. In addition, there are images of Arthur Bolton and Leverett Mills Loomis preparing bird specimens in the Academy’s Monterey workshop. These are some of the earliest Farallon images that Eva found while conducting research.

"Fisherman's Bay' and 'North Landing' South Farallon Island July '96."

“Fisherman’s Bay’ and ‘North Landing’ South Farallon Island July ’96.” Arthur L. Bolton family papers.

"A weeks egg gathering South Farallon Islands". Eight men around a pile of eggs.

“A weeks egg gathering South Farallon Islands”. Eight men around a pile of eggs. Arthur L. Bolton family papers.

"Mr. Loomis and A.L. Bolton in workshop of California Academy of Sciences Expedition, Monterey, California. June 1897."

“Mr. Loomis and A.L. Bolton in workshop of California Academy of Sciences Expedition, Monterey, California. June 1897.” Arthur L. Bolton family papers.

"Eggers trolley to Sea Island Islet." South Farallon Island, July '96. Man sitting on trolley off side of rock.

“Eggers trolley to Sea Island Islet.” South Farallon Island, July ’96. Man sitting on trolley off side of rock. Arthur L. Bolton family papers.

"Scottie 'the Egger', South Farallon Islands, July '96." Man holding basket on his shoulder.

“Scottie ‘the Egger’, South Farallon Islands, July ’96.” Man holding basket on his shoulder. Arthur L. Bolton family papers.

The O.J. Heinemann collection contains approximately 700 glass plate negatives.  One of the rare books that Becky pulled for Eva contained several of the Heinemann Farallon images that we have in the archive. Please join us at the Academy on Thursday October 21st to see some of these items.

- Danielle Castronovo

Archives and Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Academy History,Archives — Archives & Special Collections @ 12:15 pm

October 6, 2010

Connecting Content grant award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Academy Library is proud to announce that we have just been awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for our project titled Connecting Content! This year there were 211 applications and 34 projects were awarded funding. Click here to see all the National Leadership Grants that were awarded.

Connecting Content is an effort involving the California Academy of Sciences, Missouri Botanical Garden, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 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. We will then develop the means to map and link these collections to one another and to published material in the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The results of these projects will be made available for harvesting, reuse, and repurposing without cost, and third-party web applications developed to best serve diverse user communities.  The final deliverables will include an enhanced community Smithsonian Field Book Registry, as well as workflow and procedures so that other institutions may contribute to this project.

Ochsner 1905-06 Galapagos field notes

Ochsner’s 1905-06 Galapagos field notes

Our pilot project involves the digitization of field books and specimens from the Academy’s 1905-06 Galapagos Expedition. The page above, from Washington H. Ochsner’s geology field book, is one page of approximately 2,600 pages that we will digitize. Stay tuned to hear more about our project!

- Danielle

Archives and Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Archives,Connecting Content,Library News,Research — Archives & Special Collections @ 10:39 am

August 23, 2010

Darwin’s Finches

Robert I. Bowman was an ornithologist whose research focus was the Galapagos Islands including the evolution of song in Darwin’s Finches. He was a Biology Professor at San Francisco State and had a close association with the Academy since 1948. He was a Research Associate, Associate Editor of Pacific Discovery, a Fellow, and Board Member. He was also a founding member of the Executive Committee of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Isles.

Tool using finch.

Cactospiza pallida: Tool using finch in studio. Robert I. Bowman © California Academy of Sciences.

I recently accessioned a portion of the Robert I. Bowman papers which includes his field notes, correspondence, reprints, Galapagos photographs and slides, and Galapagos aerial photographs from 1946 and 1964. We also received his son Carl A. Bowman’s Galapagos slides and his wife Margret’s scientific illustrations.   I am still working with the Bowman family to prepare a second accession of additional materials including film.

We are still arranging and describing the materials that we have accessioned and plan to publish a finding aid to the collection once it is all accessioned and processed. However, as soon as word spread about our new collection we started to get requests to view and use the material before it was even processed. We have digitized Margret’s beautiful illustrations of Galapagos finch skulls  and several of Dr. Bowman’s finch slides have been digitized and will be used in videos for the revised Galapagos Finch exhibit on the public floor.

Certhidea skull. 1961.

Certhidea skull, 1961. Margret Bowman © California Academy of Sciences.

Margret’s finch skulls from “Morphological Differentiation and Adaptation in the Galapagos Finches” will be used to update our Islands of Evolution exhibit.

Cactospiza skull. 1961.

Cactospiza skull, 1961. Margret Bowman © California Academy of Sciences.

Note the different shapes of the beaks.

G maqnirostris skull. 1961.

G maqnirostris skull, 1961. Margret Bowman © California Academy of Sciences.

Galapagos finch on cactus.

Galapagos finch on cactus. Robert I. Bowman © California Academy of Sciences.

Recording environmental sounds in the Galapagos.

Recording environmental sounds in the Galapagos. Robert I. Bowman © California Academy of Sciences.

- Danielle Castronovo

Archives & Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Archives,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 10:59 am

June 11, 2010

Arnold Liebes and the justice ship “The Bear”

The archives staff is working on a large digital image migration project. One of the collections that I worked on is the Arnold Liebes papers. Liebes was a San Francisco furrier who had a trading outpost at Point Barrow, Alaska. Liebes made several trips to Alaska during the 1910s-1920s and took hundreds of photographs documenting his work as well as the lives of the indigenous people he encountered.

Liebes fur trading post.

H. Liebes & Co.’s trading station at Pt. Barrow, Alaska.

Examining pelts at traders.

Examining pelts at traders.

We digitized five hundred and ninety six Liebes images, and I just finished uniting the metadata with the digital images in our new digital asset management system. While assigning subjects like “hunting”, “sealing”, “churches”, and “ships” to the images, I decided I wanted to learn some more about the named sailing vessels that appear in the photographs. At least three  different ships are featured in the photographs including the whaling vessel The Herman, The Arctic, and a ship called The Bear.

Landing on the ice from The Herman.

Landing on the ice from The Herman.

The Arctic at Wainwright, Alaska. A.L. Liebes on the right.

The Arctic at Wainwright, Alaska. A.L. Liebes on the left.

I was intrigued by the subject matter of the photos on The Bear. There are photographs of men in military uniforms as well as a “native wedding” and photographs of “a murdered and two witnesses”.

Captain Ballinger and officers of Bear.

Captain Ballinger and officers of Bear. 1912.

"Native wedding" aboard The Bear.

“Native wedding” on board The Bear at Pt. Hope.

This New York Times article, Cutter Gripped by Ice, from September 22, 1913 explained that The Bear was a U.S coast guard ship that made a yearly trip from Nome, Alaska to Point Barrow, Alaska.  The Bear had a judge, doctor, and carpenter to dispense justice and medicine to the Inupiak people of Point Barrow. Captain Ballinger, pictured in the ship’s crew portrait above, recounts the harrowing tale of the ice bound Bear which was only freed from the ice when the winds changed.

Besides donating his wonderful manuscript and photograph collection to the Academy, Arnold Liebes donated approximately 1,000 objects to our Anthropology department. The collection can be searched through our Anthropology database and includes records and images for carvings, beads & leather work, tools & implements, raw materials, and weaponry. Select “Liebes” in the “collections” field. Liebes also donated items to the Smithsonian including this cormorant parka from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska.

- Danielle Castronovo

Archives & Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Archives,Archives finds,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 5:10 pm

April 23, 2010

Gifford Pinchot South Seas Expedition of 1929

One of my ongoing projects includes item level cataloging of digitized photographs from our manuscript collections. I just finished the Gifford Pinchot South Seas Expedition of 1929. The collection was donated to the Academy in 1972 by Howard H. Cleaves, the official expedition photographer, via Mrs. Roger Tory Peterson. One of my favorite photographs is this image of a Galapagos tortoise approaching Mrs. Gifford Pinchot as she is sewing on the deck of the “Mary Pinchot”.  September 10, 1929.

The original accession came to the Academy in three wooden boxes containing 1,389 glass plate negatives and one wooden box with four photo albums. Since the accession, the glass plate negatives were removed from the wooden boxes and their original acidic paper envelopes. The negatives were placed in acid free archival paper enclosures and boxes specifically made to house fragile glass plate negatives.

Approximately 150 of the negatives were digitized and I just added the metadata (data about data) into our digital asset management system including year, creator, title, and subject headings. In 1930, Gifford Pinchot published a book titled “To the South Seas” about the expedition and many of our digitized images were used in the text.

Mary Pinchot anchored offshore. Stiff (Stephen Stahlnecker) waving to her from foreground. August 1, 1929.

- Danielle Castronovo

Archives & Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Archives,Archives finds — Archives & Special Collections @ 2:53 pm

March 31, 2010

Dean Kinter Photographs of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges

With the construction of the new East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge ongoing, it seemed a fitting time to look back on the 1930s era construction of San Francisco’s two signature bridges. Dean W. Kinter was a mechanical engineer and enjoyed the unique status of being the only person involved in the steel erection of both suspension bridges. He was also a highly skilled amateur photographer and took advantage of his access to take stunning photographs of the construction in progress. Mr. Kinter documented the efforts – and dangers – endured by the men who built them.

Golden Gate Bridge Construction

In 1997 Elizabeth Kinter, Mr. Kinter’s widow, donated a collection of 274 mounted photographs from the construction of both bridges to the California Academy of Sciences Research Library. Those photographs are the subject of our newest Research Library Reading Room exhibit; six of the photos have been selected for display.

The Academy’s Research Library Reading Room is open to Academy staff and visiting researchers.

Daniel Ransom – Archives and Digital Production Assistant

Filed under: Archives,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 4:34 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

February 5, 2010

“A Quest for a Feather Cloak and for Cannibals”

“On the wall of a massive stone museum just outside the city of Honolulu, there once hung a famous golden cloak of an island king. This cloak, valuable beyond price, could not be duplicated if all the gold in the world was offered as reward, for it is composed of the yellow feathers of the Mamo, a small Hawaiian bird that is now extinct.

The Mamo, to its utter destruction, hoarded a portion of the islands’ golden sunlight in its feathers.”

Thus opens the adventurous memoir Quest for the Golden Cloak, written by the Steinhart Aquarium’s founding superintendant, the famous ichthyologist Alvin Seale. Recently several members of his extended family visited the Research Library of the California Academy of Sciences in order to look through his manuscript collection, composed of his papers, memoirs, photographs and news clippings, which gave our staff here the opportunity to learn more about this scientific pioneer.

Alvin Seale was an extraordinary man – a real-life Indiana Jones of Ichthyology – whose contributions to science go beyond his efforts towards the founding of the Steinhart Aquarium. His adventures began early in life; as an undergraduate student in 1892 he traveled from Indiana to California by bicycle (a journey of three months) to study under the prestigious David Starr Jordan at Stanford University. While he did go on in time to complete his education, he took frequent sabbaticals to collect animal specimens in Alaska and to try and find Klondike gold, with his adventures taking him as far north as Point Barrow – the northernmost point in the United States (or in his time, U.S. territory).

After trying Alaska (and completing his Stanford degree), he ventured to warmer climes: the South Pacific, and a commission as a field agent for the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii at the turn of the century. It is this assignment that forms the basis of Quest for the Golden Cloak. With King Kamehameha I’s famed golden cloak serving as one of the museum’s most prized possessions, museum officials assigned him the duty to scour the South Seas for more great garments of worked feathers – and to keep a passing eye out for vestigial cannibalism. As Seale wrote, “thus was assigned to me a quest for a feather cloak and for cannibals, a quest that would lead me from island to island in the tropical seas.”

Featherwork he would find, and cannibals as well; he had the distinct displeasure of seeing a man consume part of a human leg. But in his adventures he also came across high cliffside caves strewn with ancestral bones, went diving on a forgotten island searching for oysters with golden pearls, and even had a chance to shoot the devil himself (as part of a rare native ceremony he took part in on the Solomon Islands, where he fired his revolver at a massive effigy – the only time during his exotic travels he used his sidearm).

Seale’s quickly paced Golden Cloak was popular when it was published in 1946, four decades after the events it describes took place. It is an easy, exciting read, though of course it is relayed from the occidental point of view of its author and betrays occasional imperialistic impulses. Still, because of Seale’s humble Quaker roots his journeys remain grounded in peacefulness, and he frequently writes of the admiration he felt for many of the Polynesian and Melanesian peoples he encountered.

Alvin Seale in office

Seale in his office at the Academy of Sciences

And for all of Seale’s adventures, he was also a serious scientist: by the end of his career he was credited for naming 343 new species of fish (frequently in conjunction with David Starr Jordan, his mentor). His own name is memorialized as well: one type of tropical fish is named for Seale in both its scientific (Apagon sealei) and common name (Seale’s Cardinalfish).

The Academy Research Library has two copies of The Quest for the Golden Cloak available for circulation to staff, as well as Seale’s manuscript collection. Copies of Golden Cloak also exist in a number of local academic libraries, including the libraries of UC-Berkeley, Stanford, CSU-East Bay as well as the Santa Cruz Public Library. Stanford University’s archives include his extensive professional diaries.

Daniel Ransom – Archives and Digital Production Assistant

Filed under: Archives — Archives & Special Collections @ 1:53 pm
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