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From the Stacks 

June 14, 2013

The Reading Room has gone batty!

For those of you able to stop by the Library Reading Room, there is a newly installed exhibit featuring BATS!

Nearly 20% of all mammals are bats. There are roughly 1,240 bat species worldwide. The order Chiroptera (from the Greek, meaning “hand-wing”) is broken into two subclasses. The megachiroptera are large, primarily fruit-eating bats that rely on sight and smell to locate their food. The microchiroptera feed on insects, which they locate via echolocation.

bats from Buffon's Natural History, 1797

bats from Buffon’s Natural History, 1797, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I saw this image on the  Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr stream . It is from Buffon’s Natural history, containing a theory of the earth, a general history of man, of the brute creation, and of vegetables, minerals, &c. &c. From the French, with notes by the translator.  London:1797-1807. And honestly, at first I thought they were some weird sheep, or blocky, ungulate-sized mice. What else for a scientific illustrator to do, but create an improved image?

bats_small

(c) Diane T Sands 2013, pastel on paper

The three bats presented in the Buffon image done here in pastel, from top to bottom:

  • Greater Bulldog bat, Nolctilio nigrita

  • Ternat or Greater Yellow House bat, Pteropus vulgaris

  • Senegal bat, Vespertilio nigrita

The bat exhibit will be on display in the Library Reading Room through the end of 2013.


Filed under: Exhibits,Rare Books,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 7:18 pm

May 17, 2013

Oil in Ecuador: an update

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The Library’s Reading Room exhibit created by former, CIS intern Mollie Cueva-Dabkoski focuses on the Ecuadorian rainforest - the history of Western exploration of the region, and current issues facing the area’s immense biodiversity. She recently sent me an update to the continuing issues of oil exploitation. ” Thought I’d pass along this article I just read about Ecuador’s plans for the rainforest. It contains bad news, very bad news.”

 

Read the article(s) for yourself here:

Ecuador To Sell A Third Of Its Amazon Rainforest To Chinese Oil Companies

Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms

Ecuador Extends to July 16 Deadline for Bids on 11th Oil-Licensing Round

 

To read more about what you can do to help preserve the Amazon Rainforest, click here.

 


Filed under: Connecting Content,Exhibits — Dsands @ 9:40 pm

April 30, 2013

Diorama-rama!

During our ongoing photo collection survey, we came across an image (by Moulin Studios) of a scale model version of the lion diorama that still stands in African Hall. Since the model is dated 1929 and African Hall didn’t open until five years later, it’s a rare glimpse into the early planning stages of the exhibit. Scale models were used to sketch out ideas for large dioramas before building the real thing.
N1486G-web

The final diorama turned out significantly different than the original model: the lions are facing the opposite direction, and a second female lion was added. Every aspect of the diorama was undertaken by Frank Tose (then Head of Exhibits), including the taxidermy, installation, and background mural.
N1486A-web

The lion diorama was unchanged from 1934 until the closure of the Academy’s original buildings in 2004. Since the murals in each diorama were painted directly onto the walls of African Hall, there was no way to save them when the building was demolished. Instead, they were painstakingly documented, color-matched, and re-created in the new building.
BFAV4725-web

The lions themselves were sent to a taxidermist for cleaning and repair, since 70 years on exhibit had taken its toll on them. The original foregound was preserved and re-created, although the sunset in the background was toned down, due to Academy scientists’ concerns about its scientific accuracy. In 2011, an additional audiovisual element was added to create moving herds on the plain behind the lions.
IMG_0252-web

Special thanks to Roberta Brett for her stories about the process of moving African Hall!

Kelly Jensen
- Digital Production Assistant


Filed under: Academy History,Archives finds,Exhibits,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 5:33 pm

January 3, 2013

Ecuador exhibit up in Library Reading Room

Gerald and Buff Corsi (c) California Academy of Sciences

by Mollie Cueva-Dubkoski, Careers in Science Intern

Biodiversity and endemism in the northeastern section of the Amazon is off the charts. The rich diversity of flora and fauna many scientists attribute to the warmer climate of this region during the repeated Pleistocene ice ages that provided shelter to organisms. Scientists estimate there are between 9,000 to 12,000 species of vascular plants, 600 species of birds, 500 species of fish, and 120 species of mammals in and around Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. This exhibit highlights some of that diversity, the history of European exploration in Ecuador, and the current issue of crude oil that threatens this diversity.

I spent many weeks deciding what to include in the exhibit: perhaps crude oil in a jar? Or maybe a spread of taxidermied animals to demonstrate the diversity of Amazonian mammals? I finally decided on a varied collection of library materials to juxtapose two elements of my research that interested me most: Ecuador’s biodiversity, and crude oil’s effect on the Amazon. If you visit the Reading Room, you will see a sketch of the Andean Wax Palm (Ceroxylon alpinum), drawn by Aime Bonpland,who traveled with the noted naturalist Alexander von Humboldt during the first scientific exploration of the Americas. This book was one of two I included from the library’s vast collection to demonstrate the history of science in Ecuador. In the other case, I have included a map that illustrates the territory most affected by oil production, and a picture of where my family lives in Ecuador. A final piece that finished off the exhibit were the specimens the Entomology Department and the Ornithology Departments generously loaned me. In the left glass case there are several shiny Green-Gold Scarab Beetles (Chrysophora chrysochlora) and a lovely Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) specimen that boldly demonstrate what words cannot—how beautiful and quintessential these species are to the Amazon. Working with these three research departments and choosing specimens that highlighted my research enabled me to see how research collections, whether used for a museum exhibit or as evidence for a scientific study, are invaluable to the scientific world.

Arranging specimens in the case. photo: Y. Bustos

Diane Sands (left) and myself laying out an exhibit case. photo: Yolanda Bustos.


Filed under: Connecting Content,Exhibits,Library News,Rare Books,Research — Dsands @ 8:26 pm

October 31, 2012

When I Say Ecuador, You Say Darwin!

H. Vannoy Davis © California Academy of Sciences.

By Mollie Cueva-Dabkoski, Careers in Science intern

I am trapped in the depths of a database. I stare at the computer monitor, my fingers paused over the keyboard, until I finally type “crude oil AND Ecuador” into the search box. Results: 61 pages, 25 articles displayed on each page. For weeks, this has been my experience while combing through the many academic databases of articles as I try to decide upon the research project I will curate in the Academy’s Reading Room. Before working in the library as part of my Careers in Science internship, I did not really acknowledge the grueling and manual labor integral to research. Searching through dense databases, phrasing research topics correctly to find articles, switching topics because not enough research can be found — simply learning how to search for something on the Internet or in a library has been harder than I thought, but supremely validating.

I continued my research and finally after a few weeks of researching, switching topics, and researching more, I knew what I wanted to curate: an exhibit on Ecuador. Of course! It seemed obvious! Most people in the scientific community know Ecuador in relation to the Galapagos. (When I say Ecuador, you say Darwin!) I, too, have that connotation. Yet Ecuador is an important country to me not only because of its scientific merit, its evolutionary history, its collection of endemic and wonderfully odd flora and fauna, and the smorgasbord of different terrain all snugly fitted into a country about the size of Colorado, but because of the personal connection I have with Ecuador. I was born in Ecuador, and frequently visit. Throughout my childhood, I learned about biodiversity in school, and then visited Ecuador, where the science I had learned about lived and breathed — to the Amazon where thick anacondas slept in coiled mounds after their meals, and bright fish flicked in the tropical waters off the coast.

Most people know Ecuador as a biodiversity hotspot, and the node of Darwin’s theory of evolution, but not many people know about the massive ecological damage in the Ecuadorian Amazon. From 1964 to 1990, Texaco (now Chevron) drilled for oil in the northeastern Amazon of Ecuador. What has resulted from this oil drilling is major damage to the indigenous people in this area, as well as the terrain they live in. Flora and fauna alike have been majorly impacted. Cancer has spread almost infectiously through these indigenous groups; animals die daily; groundwater and rivers have been contaminated with oil; black vats of crude oil improperly disposed of sit in the forest, ignored and their existence denied by Chevron.

Four years ago, unaware of this, I watched the documentary, Crude, a film detailing the struggle of the indigenous people fighting to receive compensation for the damage the oil has done to their home. It was shocking to find out about an oil spill worse than the Exxon Valdez tragedy, yet I’d never heard about it. Soon after, I screened the documentary at my house for friends and family to try to spread the word about this oil spill in one of the most diverse places on earth. Even when Crude gained acclaim at a plethora of film festivals, and the indigenous groups fighting Chevron won their lawsuit against the corporation, still not many people know about this issue or the struggle the indigenous people of Ecuador still face in trying to receive the payment. Thus, after weeks of research, it seemed obvious what I needed to curate in the Reading Room.

This issue is personal as much as it is scientific; this issue matters to me not only as a scientist, as a human, but as an Ecuadorian. The diverse rainforests in Ecuador hold some of the most beautiful, intricate organisms on earth, and yet a chunk of that rainforest the size of Rhode Island is currently being ravaged by crude oil. What about the shiny, jewel-like Green-Gold Scarab Beetle (Chrysophora chrysochlora), the nimble jaguar (Panthera onca)? Without them, how will the local culture be affected? How will the ecosystem survive without the consumers, the decomposers, the highest and lowest trophic levels?

Research is hard. Dead ends are plentiful and reliable evidence sometimes hard to come by, but it is validating. Research allows one to communicate that which would be otherwise ignored for lack of evidence. Research is validating because with each article I read and new picture I find, I know that if one by one we become informed on issues that are covered up, pushed out of the limelight, and that require time and patience to fully understand we will have significantly more knowledge about important issues like the oil spill in Ecuador. By bringing this issue out of the shadows, we will be better informed on how to stop the degradation of the world’s biodiversity. Even faced with 61 pages of articles from my search of “crude oil AND Ecuador”, I triumphantly click the first article and begin reading.


Filed under: Exhibits,Library News,Research — Dsands @ 12:03 am

September 9, 2011

The Clary Collection: San Francisco’s 1894 Midwinter Fair

Bird’s eye view of the Midwinter Fair

Hello, my name is Hadrian Quan and I am happy to announce that our exhibit of the California Midwinter Fair (1894) is finally up in the Library Reading Room. For the past few months I have gone through the various collection pieces of this aspect of our Exhibits and Expositions Collection.

The fair was the work of M. H. de Young who sought to revitalize California’s depressed economy after the Panic of 1893.1 Hoping to follow the model of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition, de Young planned what would be the first fair of its kind in California.2
This collection was the generous donation of Donna Ewald Huggins in memory of Raymond H. Clary, a collector and historian.

Taking over 200 acres of Golden Gate Park, it was centered in what is now the park’s Music Concourse.3 Right at its heart was the Electric Tower, rising 266 feet and displaying a spotlight shining a nearly 2.5 million candlepower beam of light. Built by Leopold Bonet, one of the designers of the Columbian Exposition, he built an iron and steel edifice resembling the Eiffel Tower.4 This was one of the most striking aspects of the tower-architecturally it was rather isolated in terms of its style. The other buildings and structures of the Fair competed to be the most exotic, representing Spanish Missions, Moorish Rotundas, and Oriental Minarets.

The Japanese Village was the fair’s most popular concession, was conceived and founded by Asian art importer George Marsh. Famous for selling vases, brocades, and curios, Marsh hired Japanese workers and imported Flora and Fauna to create authenticity for his gardens. After the fair ended, the gardens were maintained by Makoto Hagiwara, who had designed the bulk of the gardens for the fair. Hired and fired multiple times due to anti-Asian sentiments, but essential to the maintenance of the gardens Hagiwara left behind two gifts to the modern world-the Japanese Tea Garden itself which stands in Golden Gate Park today, and the Fortune Cookie which he invented as a treat to go along with Tea for his customers.5
The collection itself contains many ephemera including lithographs, coins, tickets, postcards, cups and a mustache spoon. We hope that you come to visit it soon.
References
1Story of Golden Gate Park [illustrated]; Giffen, Guy and Helen; Press of Phillips and Van Orden Co.;  San Francisco; 1949
2Making of Golden Gate Park, The Early Years:1865-1906; Clary, Raymond H.; California Living Books; San Francisco; 1980
3Story of Golden Gate Park
5Making of Golden Gate Park.

Filed under: Archives,Exhibits,Special Collections — Intern @ 12:31 pm

January 19, 2010

The Great Sea Bears

San Francisco’s famous Steller’s Sea Lions (and their recent disappearance) have been in the news a lot recently. Did you know that the famous explorer and taxonomist Georg Steller not only gave the Sea Lions their leonine name, but also dubbed one of their close cousins the “Sea Bears”?

Northern Fur Seal

The name never caught on, but it’s what he intended to call the Northern Fur Seal. Both Sea Lions and Fur Seals are species of the Otariidae family (seals with external ears). Fur Seals do range as far south as the Farallon Islands, but their real numbers are found far north in the Bering Sea. In the 19th and early 20th century, the port of San Francisco was one of the major hubs of trade in fur seal skins, and the Academy has a large collection of archival items related to that era of maritime commerce, scientific research, and the conservation efforts that ultimately lead to the protection of the valuable “Sea Bear”.

The story begins on June 25, 1786, far out in the Bering Sea. Under a typically thick summer fog, the Russian navigator Gavriil Pribylov piloted his two-masted sloop St. George the Victorious by the sounds of barking seals. When the fog briefly lifted he found a wind-swept, treeless island, unpopulated by humans, but teeming with other creatures great and small. Most importantly, the island was densely populated by the Callorhinus ursinus, Steller’s “Sea Bear”. This was Pribylov’s goal, the fabled breeding grounds of fur seals as spoken of in Aleut tradition. A second island, which was close enough to see under a clear sky, remained undiscovered for another year due to the perpetually gray and rainy state of the Bering Sea. These two volcanic islands, named St. George and St. Paul (and several scattered smaller counterparts) make up the chain now called the Pribilof Islands. Crown-approved Russian furriers claimed these islands and began hunting the fur seals for their valuable coats. Native Aleutians were forcibly moved to camps on the Pribilof Islands to carry out the profitable work.

In 1867, when Secretary of State William Seward negotiated the purchase of the Alaskan Territory from the Tsars, the Pribilofs were included in the sale. The Russian furriers left, but the Aleut workers remained, and in 1870, the United States government leased the sealing rights on the Pribilof Islands to a newly-formed private San Francisco investment firm, the Alaska Commercial Company. In 1890 the Alaska Commercial Company was outbid for continued rights by another San Francisco agency, the North American Commercial Company, organized by Irving Liebes, a Prussian Jewish merchant whose brother Herman had founded a wholesale and retail fur market in downtown San Francisco (later called the H. Liebes Department Store, which continued to operate near Union Square until 1970). To give you a sense of the importance of the Fur Seal trade, under the terms of these two leases the United States government netted ten times the cost of the entire Alaska purchase.

The Academy’s Research Library Reading Room, open to Academy staff and visiting researchers, is currently hosting a display of items from our manuscript collections relating to the history of the Fur Seal trade. Many of the display items are culled from our extensive collection pertaining to former Academy Director Dr. Barton W. Evermann.

Evermann’s interest in Alaska started in 1892. He had received his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1891 and through his connections to the influential Dr. David Starr Jordan, then the Chancellor at Indiana, he was appointed as a research scientist aboard the USS Albatross, the first commissioned governmental research vessel in the world. The Albatross was assigned to explore the Alaskan coast, the Aleutian Islands, and in particular the fur seal rookeries of the Pribilof Islands. Thus a midwestern schoolteacher and ichthyologist traveled to the remote Bering Sea, where he would go on to become one of the world’s foremost experts on the Northern Fur Seal. The artifacts of his research — photographs of the islands and seal hunting, his painstaking field notes, and a letter from the US Government issuing research instructions to the commander of the Albatross — are all part of the Reading Room exhibit. These are placed alongside advertising circulars from the Liebes Fur Company and a period San Francisco Chronicle article detailing the “romance of the fur trade”.

Fur Seal Reading Room Exhibit

Evermann would go on to be Commissioner of Alaska Fisheries from 1910-1914. He moved from Alaska to San Francisco in 1914 as the new Director of the California Academy of Sciences. His tenure had a profound influence, including his oversight of the Academy’s move to Golden Gate Park in 1916 and the construction of the Steinhart Aquarium in 1923. His interest in Alaska and the Pribilof Islands went undiminished during his time with the Academy — in fact, four fur seals from the Pribilofs occupied the fountain in front of the Steinhart on the day it opened.

Evermann’s discoveries established the threats of pelagic (at-sea) hunting to the survival of fur seals as a species. This in turn led to a 1911 multi-national treaty that banned pelagic hunting of fur seals in international waters — the first known treaty in history written expressly to save a threatened species from extinction.

In addition to the manuscript items on display in the Library Reading Room, the Academy has a large collection of related photographs, letters and materials. Our holdings also include circulating copies of The Alaska Fur-Seal Islands, written by Academy scientist G Dallas Hanna, who lived on both St. George and St. Paul’s Islands, first working as a teacher and shopkeeper in 1913 and then serving in 1914 as a fur-seal herd custodian. This book is one of the most substantive accounts of this era of discovery, commerce and Alaskan history written by an eyewitness. The call number is QH105.A4 H36 2008.

Please inquire with library staff if you are interested in exploring this period of history further. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) also produced and hosts an excellent website on the historical legacy of the Fur-Seal islands here.

Daniel Ransom – Archives and Digital Production Assistant


Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Exhibits,Special Collections — Archives & Special Collections @ 4:55 pm

August 7, 2009

Early Bird Catches the Specimen

Beginning in 1919, Academy Director Barton Evermann and Joseph Mailliard, Honary Curator of Ornithology and Mammalogy, began putting together a collection of photos and biographical sketches of ornithologists who had studied birds in California.   The first president of the Cooper Ornithological Club, William Otto Emerson was on the short list of early leading California ornithologists.   Emerson, an accomplished artist and photographer, answered Evermann’s request by donating over 40 photographs, many of which were included in Evermann’s and Mailliard’s California Ornithologists Collection.  The photo featured in this post is photo number 24 of that donation.

N21414, California Ornithologists Collection

From left to right are Henry Reed Taylor, Walter Bryant, Rollo Beck, and Richard C. McGregor, presumably at an early Cooper Ornithological Club meeting.  The photo was taken at William O. Emerson’s Hayward home in 1897.  By this time, Taylor and Bryant were accomplished ornithologists and McGregor was still a student at Stanford University.  Rollo Beck was at the tender age of 27 when this snap shot was taken.  And so this photo records a rare assembly of the old and new generations of ornithologists at the turn of the century in Northern California.  Coming across this photo was somewhat like coming across of a photo of your parents as teenagers.

The photo of this gathering is quite rare because Walter Bryant died just a few years later at the age of forty-four.  He was known for his exceptional specimens and considered an expert in mounting birds, particularly hummingbirds.  Bryant was noted as being especially kind to aspiring ornithologists and he was known as a patient and sympathetic tutor in the art of taxidermy.  One can almost hear Bryant patiently tutoring Beck in the trade while McGregor listens on, intensely puffing on his pipe in Emerson’s cramped attic studio.

The Condor featured an obituary at the time of Bryant’s death and appropriately, Emerson wrote of his friend, “Mr. Bryant, as I have known him, was a quiet, reserved, sparely built man, whom it was necessary to know by close association to appreciate his true worth. He was not given to joking but could tell a good story, and was kind to a degree to all. His was a large heart and an honest intent. He always had a good word for everyone and was ready to help the novice in bird lore as I had on many an occasion to learn in our early acquaintance.”

“No insect or bird could escape his eye or ear, as I learned from camp life with him under the white-limbed buckeyes on the banks of a trickling stream beneath Chick’s Cliff in the famed ‘Pine Canyon.’ The first thing in early daybreak, with the last call of the poor-will, Bryant would turn over and say from under his night-cap: ‘Come, Emerson, a fire, a cup of coffee, and then off for the early bird.’ No matter where or how hard the tramp might be, he was ready for it, and would take you to the nesting grounds of the gnatcatcher or to the duckhawk’s eyry in some ‘Castle Rocks.’ He was slow of movement but sure of purpose, and to tell him of some little known bird or animal was to start him off for it at once.”

I’d like to thank Barbara West , volunteer and resident Galapagos expert here at the Academy Archives, for her help in unraveling the rich history behind this remarkable photograph.

- Christina Fidler

Archives and Digital Production Assistant

Other sources referenced:

Harris, H. (1941).  The Annals of Gymnogyps to 1900.  The Condor, 43( 1), 51.

Fisher, W. (1905).  In Memoriam: Walter E. Bryant. The Condor, 7(5), 129-131.

Grinnell, J. (1938).  In Memoriam: Richard C. McGregor Ornithologist of the Philippines.  The Auk,5(2) 163-175.


Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Exhibits,Special Collections — Archives & Special Collections @ 12:54 pm

July 16, 2009

One Small Step

Children admire Apollo 11 lunar sample at the Academy in 1970.  N2579D, Copyright California Academy of Sciences Library, Special Collections.  Photo by Lloyd Ullberg.

Children admire Apollo 11 lunar sample at the Academy in 1970. N2579D, Copyright California Academy of Sciences Library, Special Collections. Photo by Lloyd Ullberg.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the liftoff of  Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the Moon.  Four days later, on July 20,1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to walk on the lunar surface.

But what does that have to do with the Academy Library?  Believe it or not, several things:

This is the first post on the Academy Library’s new blog.  After days of debating what the first post should be about, the commemoration of such an incredible scientific and technological achievement seems like a no-brainer for kicking off the blog.

One of the reasons I started this blog is that people ask me all the time, “What do librarians do all day?” or “Why do we need libraries anymore?”  One answer to these questions is that libraries are a fantastic venue for interesting research and projects that might not fit in at other institutions.  Librarians are in the business of finding, collecting, categorizing, and preserving information, and finding ways to share that information with other people.  We do this in a variety of ways, including our library catalogs and archival finding aids.  Another way libraries share information with the masses is through the development of exhibits or other projects, like this one from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, which happens to be about the Apollo 11 mission http://www.wechoosethemoon.org.  You can follow the activities of the Apollo 11 mission in real time, with historic archival footage and images.  Click on the URL to see what phase of the mission was unfolding exactly 40 years ago right now.

The California Academy of Sciences once hosted a piece of Apollo 11 history: a moon rock, collected by Neil Armstrong at Tranquility Base in July 1969.  The photograph above was taken while the lunar sample was on exhibit at the Academy in the summer of 1970.  The lunar sample currently on exhibit at the Academy is from a 1972 mission.

Be sure to tune in to http://www.wechoosethemoon.org at 10:56 pm EST on July 20th to see how the Kennedy Library and Museum reenacts Armstrong’s walk on the moon.  Then come to the Academy and look at our moon rock.  Tell ‘em the Librarian sent you.


Filed under: Academy History,Exhibits,Special Collections — Librarian @ 5:22 pm

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