My name is Renee Salters, and I first developed a love for the natural science and history field in my childhood. It was the habit of my old elementary alma mater to take inquisitive young minds on field trips to the Denver Museum of Natural History (now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science), in an attempt to show us that science was not only educational, but fun. From the moment our classes waltzed, screaming as children do, into the main doors of the Museum and came face to face with the towering skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I believe we were all in awe. Some of us remained in awe, returning to the museum whenever possible, despite entering and surviving the troubled years that generally begin at the end of elementary school and do not end until the day one graduates high school and is a fish entering yet another pond in the world, albeit a somewhat larger and more intimidating pond.
Mendocino National Forest (California) from the Manzanita Image Project
Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences
So imagine my glee when, as part of a course on Issues in Special Libraries for my Masters in Library and Information Science Program, I was asked to conduct fieldwork in a special library and was able to complete this work at the California Academy of Sciences Library. The assignment called for only thirty hours of fieldwork, leaving me precious little time to learn everything I could about the workings, procedures, and daily life of the institution. I found cataloging records, assisted in ongoing projects, and helped in the tail-end processing of some new acquisitions. I both shelved and retrieved books, all the while encountering the familiar and pleasant smell of volumes of old tomes gathered stoically together in scientific solidarity. I went through boxes of not inconsiderable and exceedingly interesting book donations and then made my allergies crazy with a few fantastically dusty and overflowing boxes of donated scientific papers. As part of the Manzanita project, I helped upload photographs to an online database, and was able to view some interesting and curious slides of the deserts, mountains, valleys, and snow-covered trees in various parts of California. I saw more antiquated, colorful, and international scientific journals and books in my thirty hours of field work than I had in the rest of my life combined. And perhaps most importantly, I met the people who do this every day and saw the continued enthusiasm with which they carried out their work, meeting each morning with a happy sigh of “let’s get this day started!” rather than the doleful sigh of “why?” I have encountered in other settings. They find all the excitement they need helping researchers and being active participants in an institution that focuses on the exploration of and education about the world around us. As I write this, I am looking out of the window at the trees of Golden Gate Park; as they sway in the wind I feel as though the research being conducted here is just an extension of the nature outside.
Sonoma (California) from the Manzanita Image Project
Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences
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
Despite intermittent downpours here in San Francisco, I daresay that Spring has sprung in beautiful Golden Gate Park. The tulips are blooming in the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, the Calla lilies are taking over JFK Drive, and birds of all shapes and sizes are happily hunkering down over their nests. Apparently in California, the return of cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) to Mission San Juan Capistrano is said to be a harbinger of spring. Although these days swallows seem to favor nesting sites besides the Mission, and problematically arrive before spring does.
Cliff Swallow from the Manzanita Image Project
Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingles © California Academy of Sciences
I love this time of year, when the weather gets warmer but everything is still green. In my daily life, I am both a distance runner and a bicyclist. I commute to the Academy by bicycle every day, and most days I run outside as well. I’m in and around Golden Gate Park on foot or on a bike several times a day, and I’ve started to notice more and more of the plants and animals around me (especially as the days grow longer and sunnier).
I don’t listen to music while I run. But I still seek some distraction to take my mind off the fact that I’m running even though no one is chasing me. In graduate school, I used the time to plan out my assignments. If I’m desperate, I’ll do math problems just to take my mind off things. I’ve resorted to the “If a train leaves Springfield traveling 85 miles per hour…” variety of word problem more than once. Lately, I’m trying to identify and remember some of the wildlife I see while out and about in the Park.
I’m challenging myself to notice, identify, and remember at least 2 animals or plants I see on every run. To keep myself honest, I’m going to tweet about my findings, reporting my sightings in 140 characters or less. I’ll include links to images so you can get a look at our co-inhabitants of Golden Gate Park.
First tweet is already out! Not following me on Twitter yet? You’ll find me @tiny_librarian (http://twitter.com/tiny_librarian).