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From the Stacks 

February 22, 2013

The archives are a real hoot!

Yesterday morning, California Academy of Sciences archivist, Heather Yager was looking through some documentation and stumbled upon quite a gem. In the archives, finding something wonderful isn’t really that rare; recently we found a letter from the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists signed by Albert Einstein. So, while big finds never cease to humble and astound us, we’re not exactly surprised.

However, yesterday we found a letter from local mycologist Lillian S. Mott (who described and named the mushroom endemic to the vicinity of Grass Valley and Nevada City, Boletus mottiae Theirs) to then California Academy of Sciences art director, Johan Kooy expressing an interest in donating slides and images for use in Academy publications. While this in its own right is special, Lillian also included two photographs of owls which she hilariously captioned, leading us to believe she may have unwittingly invented the owl meme in 1971.

(c) Lillian S Mott, 1971.

(c) Lillian Mott, 1971.

Ms. Mott, if you read this, we recognize not only your fine contributions to science but also your wit and innovative spirit. We salute you.

-Yolanda Bustos
MAS, MLIS,  IMLS grant manager, and lover of acronyms and memes.

Filed under: Archives,Archives finds,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 8:06 pm


  1. That is a rather insane looking owl. Have you been able to figure out what species it is?

    Comment by Daniel Ransom — February 22, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

  2. Daniel – the accompanying letter by Ms. Mott says “Enclosed are two unusual photos of a baby owl which I managed to photo. I don’t know the species…” We’re thinking of submitting the photos to our Ornithology researchers for an identification!

    Comment by Heather Yager — February 22, 2013 @ 9:10 pm

  3. It looks like we have received identification from Academy fellow and enthusiastic birder, Logan Kahle! He wrote, “To me, the owl looks like a young Western Screech-Owl. If only they were still around in the city….”

    Thanks Logan!

    You can also confirm with your own eyes by comparing to this image of a Western Screech Owl on the CalPhotos page.

    Happy birding!

    Comment by Archives & Special Collections — February 26, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

  4. The barring on the underparts looks good for a Great Horned. It hasn’t molted the adult head feathers yeat.

    Comment by Dom — February 26, 2013 @ 11:07 pm

  5. NOPE, I’m wrong. Good call Logan!

    Comment by Dom — February 26, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

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