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From the Stacks 

August 16, 2011

Ornithology & Mammalogy Department field note finding aid

We just published another finding aid to the Online Archive of California! The finding aid one is for one of our most frequently consulted collections – The Ornithology & Mammalogy Department field note collection.

The collection consists of the research field notes created and assembled by the Ornithology and Mammalogy Department. The field notes are arranged in folders by last name and are housed in 55 archival boxes. The collection spans from 1880-2010 with most decades being well represented. The collection is not a comprehensive collection of staff field notes from the Ornithology and Mammalogy department. Other field notes exist in the personal papers of some of the staff represented in this collection as well as in the Ornithology and Mammalogy department.

I recently pulled some field notes from this collections to show to our Teacher Institute on Science and Sustainability in order to show the variety of ways that people recorded scientific data and observations. Here are some scans of notes from the collection that I brought with me.

Cohen field notes

Two journal style pages from D.A. Cohen’s field notes from April 1899.

Frank Tose Elephant Tree

One illustrated page from Frank Tose’s visit to Cedros Island July 22, 1922.

Covel field notes

Section of a page from Paul Covel’s collecting book from 1926. I am familiar with most of the names in the O&M field note collection but didn’t know who Paul Covel was. Once I did some research I was delighted to find out that he was the first municipal naturalist in America and worked at the Bird Sanctuary at Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA.

This is just a small sample of the field notes that are part of this amazing collection.

- Danielle Castronovo

Archives & Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Archives — Archives & Special Collections @ 11:18 am

July 21, 2011

Connecting Content visits NightLife

Thursday night, July 14, was the Academy’s ‘Crafty’ themed NightLife which featured an array of booths from Bizarre Bazaar selling hand-made items from local artists. The Library and Archives had a chance to discuss Connecting Content, an IMLS grant-funded project, and to talk about collection theory, both historically and within contemporary situations. Of course, our visitors were enacting their own ‘collecting’ by selecting objects and purchasing them from the Bizarre Bazaar booths, perhaps adding these objects to what could be considered a collection at home on their walls, in their drawers, or even choosing to wear them.

There were two parts of this display. First, a table was set up next to the Project Lab that displayed Ole Worm’s (1588-1654) book Museum Wormianum, showing his “cabinet of curiosities” in Copenhagen, finches from the Galapagos Islands often referred to as “Darwin’s finches,” and a photograph of the 1905-06 Academy of Science Galapagos expedition team. Visitors approached this display and were given glimpses into why these people collected their specimens, with Project Manager Daina Dickman available to provide additional information. The second part to this display was the Collections Scanning Intern Stephanie Stewart-Bailey with a desk drawer full of ‘curiosities’ on loan from the Naturalist Center. She wandered around the museum floor having conversations with visitors and playing a guessing game of “what do you think this object is?” Through this display Stephanie hoped to introduce the idea to visitors that collecting occurs first due to curiosity.

This game fostered the idea that collectors found these animals and other such specimens, curious. The second step after noticing something was curious was to draw out further knowledge from them. Stephanie then showed the visitors the table with the Library and Archives display of examples of historic natural history collections.

By participating in NightLife, the Library and Archive’s Connecting Content project was shown directly to the public, initiating participatory discussions with visitors over collection theory and how some projects at the California Academy of Sciences deal with both historic and contemporary collecting methods.

–Stephanie Stewart-Bailey

Filed under: Archives,Connecting Content,Library Events,Rare Books — Archives & Special Collections @ 2:32 pm

July 18, 2011

Connecting Content, Information Connections Research Update

Greetings from the nation’s capital! I have been working on the California Academy of Sciences Connecting Content project as the Information Connections Research Intern, based at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. I have been conducting research for the past six weeks into the information connections between archival scientific field books, digitized scientific publications, and natural history specimen collections. I’d like to introduce the nature of the research I’m doing and report on some of my findings.

Field books containing specimen data and observations, publications resulting from formalized post-expedition research, and natural history specimen collection databases comprise an information relationship with multiple points of entry. The connective thread may be followed in any number of directions depending upon how the sources are cross-referenced. For example, a specimen number (“CAS 3156”) in a CAS Collection Database could be searched in JSTOR to see if it has been cited in a publication. Assuming it has been cited, one could proceed to search the collector’s field notebooks, to see if the same specimen is recorded in the field.

Galapagos Penguins. Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences

I have discovered that beginning with the field book itself, surveying its format and contents for geographical location, dates, and presence of specimen numbers, followed by searching the relevant author or curator in JSTOR or the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) quickly narrows down whether there is a direct link between a scientific publication and an expedition field book. If such a link exists, then searching the relevant natural history specimen collection database for holdings which can be verified as the same specimens described in the original field book is the next step.

Of the different types of matches between these sources that arise through this research methodology, the three of greatest interest to the research goals of the project are the direct three-way match, the indirect three-way match, and the ambiguous possible three-way match. A direct three-way match describes an information relationship in which collected specimens are recorded with numbers in a field book, those same numbers, along with the same locations and dates, are cited in a digitized publication, and an institutional specimen collection database includes the same specimens, citing the original field book number.

To illustrate how that works, here is a selection from a yet to be digitized field book created by the 1905-06 Galápagos Expedition ornithologist, Gifford: “December 8 1905, Duncan (Pinzon) Island: Spheniscus mendiculus [1646]. I shot one in the forenoon which was swimming and diving about the little cove…”. The date, location and a specimen number are given in this primary collecting document. After a search of the BHL, a publication authored by Gifford titled The Birds of the Galapagos Islands describes the following encounter in his section on Spheniscus mendiculus, or Galápagos penguin, as having occurred on December 8 1905:

Giffords Publication

The specimen number has a prefix CAS, referring to its number in the California Academy of Sciences Ornithology Collections. One of the frequent complications in my information connections research is keeping track of individual collector numbering systems and the numbering systems of the institutions that later accession the specimens. Luckily, the collection databases at times do an excellent job of preserving the original collector specimen number along with its number in the scope of all CAS bird specimens.

CAS Ornithology Collections Screen Shot Gifford

Since Giffords’ number 1646 is traceable with geographic and location verification from the field book, to a publication, to a collection database, it represents the information relationship I have termed a direct three-way match. As you may guess, things do not often line up quite this nicely, and the indirect three-way matches, ambiguous possible matches, and nil matches are much more frequent occurrences. However, that the life of a collecting event on an expedition over 100 years ago is traceable via modern technological tools is an exciting development in the use of primary sources in the sciences, and as more of these field books are cataloged and digitized this rich connective information will be integrated smoothly into biodiversity research.

- Richard Fischer, Information Connections Research Intern

Filed under: Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 9:17 am

June 13, 2011

Welcome to Richard and Stephanie, our summer Connecting Content interns

We are very excited to welcome the new Summer Connecting Content interns to the California Academy of Sciences. Although we are sad to see our Fall intern Josh Roselle leave, he has produced a great foundation for our incoming interns to build on.

Our Information Connections intern is Richard Fischer. Although his internship is with the California Academy of Sciences he will be working at our partner site, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and will be focused on establishing appropriate connections between digitized field books, natural history specimens and the published literature in the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Richard Fischer graduated from the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, City University of New York, in May 2011 with a Master of Library Science degree and a Certificate in Archives and Preservation of Cultural Materials. While working on his degree, Richard interned at the Louis Armstrong House Museum Archives, the New-York Historical Society Library Manuscript Division, and the American Museum of Natural History Research Library Special Collections and Archives. He was a Queens College Libraries Special Collections Fellow for the 2010-2011 academic year. Richard holds a BA in English from Rutgers University.

Our Collections Scanning intern is Stephanie Stewart Bailey. She will be working at the California Academy of Sciences and focusing on digitizing fieldnotes and specimens from the 1906/06 Galapagos exhibition for our pilot project.

Stephanie is an interdisciplinary artist pursuing a master’s thesis in museum studies, integrating art with science. Interested in the reuse of museum space through the representation of the physical human body, she strives to make museums accessible to everyone by the means of artistic installations and spaces like the Project Lab at the Academy of Sciences. By holding an internship with the Connecting Content team, she hopes to make connections with dedicated science professionals to further investigate the natural world with hands on experience. She is also excited to investigate possible educational strategies by interpreting this project for the public, through the glass wall of the Project Lab.
With a fascination for the natural world, Stephanie collects specimen from birds to insects and fossils, to incorporate in her artistic process.  She holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in photography and performance art and has worked at the Smithsonian and Göteborg Natural History Museums, and at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago. She is currently a Museum Studies Graduate Student from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.  You can see some of her recent thesis work in natural history museums at http://thebodyappropriate.tumblr.com/

Filed under: Connecting Content,Library News — Archives & Special Collections @ 3:25 pm

May 13, 2011

Lovell & Libby Langstroth’s photography collection

I am thrilled to announce that Lovell and Libby Langstroth recently gifted their 35mm slide collection to the Academy Archives. The collection includes 23 binders of slides from dives in Monterey Bay and 13 binders of slides from the Indo-Pacific.Corynactis californica; Club Tipped Anemone

Corynactis californica. L. & L. Langstroth © California Academy of Sciences

The Langstroths already had more than 300 digital images hosted on Calphotos, where the Academy Library has over 32,000 images of plants, animals, fungi, landscape, and human culture images available online. The Langstroths were looking for a home for their spectacular photography collection, and the Academy was a natural fit. We will soon start to survey the photographs and select new images to add to Calphotos.

Macrocystis pyrifera; Giant Kelp

Macrocystis pyrifera. L. & L. Langstroth © California Academy of Sciences

Some more details about the Langstroths are given in their Calphotos bio:

Lovell, M.D. Stanford U; Libby, PhD Anthropology, U.C. Berkeley. Pursued marine biology studying at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station and Cal State’s Moss Landing Marine Lab. Dived and photographed extensively in California waters and the IndoPacific. Volunteered as guides for 20 yrs. at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Published “A Living Bay, the Underwater World of Monterey Bay” University of California Press, Berkeley, 2000.

Loligo opalescens

Loligo opalescens. L. & L. Langstroth © California Academy of Sciences.

Tethya aurantia

Tethya aurantia. L. & L. Langstroth © California Academy of Sciences.

- Danielle Castronovo

Archives & Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Archives,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 3:42 pm

May 12, 2011

Galapagos Islands 1905-1906 Digitization Project Update: Imaging Finch Specimens

I am almost at the end of my 16-week internship at the Academy Library, and I am excited to have started imaging finch specimens. This is part of the Connecting Content project, which has been made possible with grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This project involves digitizing and providing access to expedition field notes and avian specimens from a 1905-1906 expedition to the Galapagos Islands. At the end of the project the finch specimen images will be available through the Encyclopedia of Life.

During the first few months of the project I worked on digitizing the expedition field notes while we prepared for imaging the finches. A lot of planning and experimenting had to be done before we could begin, and I learned a lot along the way.

The finch collection from this expedition consists of over 4,000 specimens; this includes numerous species collected from many of the islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. Before beginning this project, the project staff had to figure out how we would select the 1,000 specimens that will be imaged as our sample from this collection.

Through our selection process we want to provide researchers and users with a balanced and deep collection, so we are imaging a proportional sample of each species, including an equal sampling of male and female specimens, from every island where they were collected.

One of the goals of this project is to provide researchers with the ability to view these images online and conduct research remotely, so it was important that we considered image quality, camera angles, and image uniformity. After discussions with staff scientists and researchers we are taking six images of each specimen, from different points of view. This includes shots of the ventral (belly), dorsal (back), lateral (side), and head/beak of the finches, as well as the front and back sides of the collection tags. The collection tags are important as they contain information such as the genus, species, collection date, specimen number, and the island where they were collected.

The bird specimens must be handled carefully. Although they are quite rigid, some parts of them may break or come off with rough or excessive handling, particularly their feathers and legs. Each specimen is gently placed on a uniform background with a ruler and a color bar before the photograph is taken. The color bar allows us, as well as the user, to gauge color representation and accuracy.

The camera that we are using for this part of the project is a Canon E05 5D with a 50mm lens. It creates highly detailed and crisp images. One can zoom in and view incredible detail, including individual strands of feathers, and even dandruff particles. The camera is attached to a custom-built mount, and is affectionately known as “the Big Kahuna.” This equipment was provided by Academy curator of Herpetology Bob Drewes. You can read about his ongoing work teaching about and studying the incredible biodiversity of Sao Tome and Principe on his blog.

It has been fun and a great learning experience to work on this project. Although my internship is coming to an end in a couple of weeks, I am certain you will be hearing more about the progress of this exciting project from the staff and other interns over the next couple of years.

Josh Roselle

Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 4:52 pm

May 2, 2011

Into the Deep with Elephant Seals

Watch Into the Deep with Elephant Seals on Wednesday, May 4th at 7:30pm on KQED 9 & KQED HD on Comcast 709 or online at www.kqed.org/quest.

Thousands of northern elephant seals – some weighing up to 4,500 pounds – make an annual migration to breed each winter to Año Nuevo State Reserve, a jagged stretch of coastline in San Mateo County.  For decades, they’ve caught the eye of the marine biologists who are using high-tech tools to plumb the secrets of elephant seals, marine mammals that live mostly underwater.


Several months ago I was approached by a producer from KQED who was working on a QUEST episode about elephant seals. He was interested in historical images of elephant seals and we were able to supply images from the 1922 Guadalupe Island, Mexico expedition and the 1932 Templeton Crocker Galapagos expedition.

In 1922, the Academy partnered with the government of Mexico, the National Geographic society, and the San Diego Society of Natural History to study the elephant seal, the fur seal, and southern sea otter on Guadalupe Island, Mexico. The previous year the Committee on the Conservation of Marine Life of the Pacific, part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, suggested we study these animals so they could issue recommendations for conservation efforts.

The KQED QUEST episode airs this week and we are all excited to see which photos were used in the show.

Male Elephant Seal from the 1922 Guadalupe Island Expedition collection.

Expedition member on beach from the 1922 Guadalupe Island Expedition collection.

1922 Guadalupe Island, Mexico Expedition members. (Left to right) – A.W. Anthony, G. Dallas Hanna, and Carlos Cuesta Terron. Ensenada, Baja California.

Group at Scripps Institution, La Jolla California

Group at Scripps Institution, La Jolla California. July 8, 1922. Top row: Frank Tose, Clinton Abbott, A.W. Anthony, Barton Warren Evermann, Carlos Cuesta Terron, W.C. Crandall. Lower row: Fred Baker, W.E. Ritter, Joseph Slevin, Captain Angulo, unidentified, Jose M. Gallegos, and unidentified.

- Danielle Castronovo

Archives & Digital Collections Librarian

Filed under: Archives,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 2:15 pm

April 22, 2011

Map Madness!

My name is Tristan Campbell, for the last two weeks I’ve been an intern in the library here at California Academy of Sciences. I’m in the last year of a three year Masters program in Library, Archives, and Information Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and one of the requirements of the program is a two week practicum/internship. Most people in the program do these at local institutions in Vancouver, but I was lucky enough that there is a UBC connection here through librarian Rebecca Morin who had a database project I could work on.

The quick answer that I give when people ask how I chose my Masters program, is that I want to connect people with information, preferably through computers, and ideally using open source software. So when the opportunity to build a database for the California Academy of Sciences Library using open source software came up I jumped on it.
I’ve spent my time here building a database for the map collection here in the library using USGS maps, and up until now access to them has been managed using hand written indexes prepared by a long-time volunteer. The amount of work that must have gone into hand writing those indexes is incredible, my job was to build a database that could use and preserve those indexes. The database is very much a work in progress, my time here was far too short to put all of the data from the indexes into the database, and there is some work to be done by a library volunteer before the whole system is complete. But the basic structure is there, and it will be very useful for providing access to the map collection.

Two weeks is far to short a time to spend at a place like this, but it has been quite an experience. The work environment could not be more supportive and positive, and the materials they have here are amazing. One day, just for a change of pace, I got to help turn the page of the Audubon on display in the Library reading room, amazing. I had pretty high expectations coming here, and the experience has been far better than I had hoped for. So huge thanks to Rebecca, the Library and Archives team, and everyone else at California Academy of Sciences who have been so good to me, I only wish it could have been for longer.

Filed under: Library News,Rare Books — Intern @ 3:29 pm

April 19, 2011

Cordell Bank

Cordell Bank is located north of the Gulf of the Farallones and about 22 miles west of Point Reyes. Discovered in 1869 by Edward Cordell, it remained unexplored until Robert Schmieder and his team of researchers conducted numerous dives in the area from the late 1970s till the mid-1980s. Schmieder formed the Cordell Expeditions non-profit organization to research the vibrant marine community of Cordell Bank.

The California Academy of Sciences is participating in a project to curate and archive the historic photographic slides of Cordell Expeditions and make them available to the public online. A joint effort of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Cordell Expeditions, and the California Academy of Sciences, the project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Through this project, the Academy will become the archival repository for the original photographic slides taken by the divers. Over the years, Cordell Expeditions produced more than 3000 images of the diverse community of Cordell Bank. Cordell Expeditions’ divers were the first to document this amazing habitat and their photos were instrumental in demonstrating the need to establish the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Soon these historic photos will be available online.

You can get a sneak preview of these amazing images below.

Here’s a common sight on Cordell Bank:

Cordell Expeditions © California Academy of Sciences

Cordell Expeditions/ Don Dvorak © California Academy of Sciences

The vibrant underwater community includes many different species:

Cordell Expeditions/Don Dvorak © California Academy of Sciences

And here’s a member of the dive team:

Cordell Expeditions/Jerry Seawell © California Academy of Sciences

-Kristin Jeffries, Library Assistant for Archives and Digital Collections

Filed under: Archives,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 4:01 pm

March 24, 2011

Connecting Content: Galapagos Islands 1905-1906 Expedition Field Notes Digitization, Project Update

Since my last blog post I have finished scanning the field notes of Alban Stewart, the expedition botanist, and I have moved on to Washington Ochsner’s geology field notes. The pages are unbound and very brittle, so I have to be quite gentle with them and handle them as little as possible.

During the year the expedition was in the Galapagos, the scientists went to several islands multiple times. It seems that after the expedition these notes were reordered by island, so I check closely while scanning to make sure that the pages are not out of place.

Ochsner’s geology journal is divided into four sections:

The first, and largest section, is comprised of notes and general observations. It describes geological formations, strata, and rock composition. In this section he often describes a formation or an island’s origin, and explains how it may relate to other islands in the Galapagos chain. This section also contains interesting figures and maps to help visualize the descriptions. The maps and figures show rock strata and geological formations— such as lakes, cliffs, craters, and volcanic formations—with numbers or alpha-notations connecting features to the notes. These have been some of my favorite parts of the notes. I enjoy cartography, particularly old maps, and it is fascinating to read through Ochsner’s notes and connect them to his drawings.

Ochsner called the second section “occasional ideas.” These seem to be general thoughts that did not fit in with the notes on specific islands. It also contains citations for literature related to his observations.

The third section is a rock specimen catalog. This section contains a list of rock specimens Ochsner, and other members of the expedition, collected on the various islands. He assigned the specimens a unique catalog number and also a number relating to where they were found.

The final section consists of photograph metadata. This is descriptive information that corresponds to images taken during the expedition.

I am almost finished digitizing Ochsner’s field notes, and, after receiving further training with the imaging hardware and software, I will probably begin taking high resolution digital images of finch specimens. It should be lots of fun!

Josh Roselle

Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 12:05 pm
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