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From the Stacks 

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

March 11, 2011

Connecting Content: 1905-1906 Galapagos Expedition Field Notes

The California Academy of Sciences was recently awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for a project called Connecting Content. This pilot project involves digitizing and providing access to expedition field notes and avian specimens from a 1905-1906 expedition to the Galapagos Islands, and I get to create the digital images! At the end of the project we will make the field notes available through the Biodiversity Heritage Library and specimen images available through the Encyclopedia of Life.

Besides the scientific and research value of this collection, it is also one of the Academy’s oldest collections. While the expedition was in the Galapagos the 1906 Earthquake devastated San Francisco and destroyed the old Academy building along with many collections. The Galapagos expedition’s field notes and specimens became part of the foundation materials for the new Academy.

I have begun scanning the field notes of Alban Stewart, the expedition botanist. The notes are divided into three sections. In the first section Stewart tracked plant species he encountered and recorded them using a numbering system, and he provided brief notes about them.

The second section is composed of his journal. In the journal Stewart describes in greater detail the various species and locations of plants found on the many islands of the Galapagos Archipelago. Stewart would survey an area and describe species he found and note any particulars of their surroundings, including if they were abundant or scarce. Stewart’s journal traces the biodiversity of the flora in relation to other islands and continental regions. In his notes he often mentions other regions where these plants grow, and whether or not a species can be found on other islands in the chain.

The final section is a chart of air and water temperature readings. I was surprised to find that the water and air temperature readings were often very similar.

I am working in the project lab on the first floor, across from the rainforest dome. It is a high-tech lab where visitors can walk by and view ongoing projects and research being conducted live. It has been kind of fun to scan, view, and process the images on three large computer screens while visitors can peer in through the glass. We set up a display with some related artifacts from the expedition—such as a pith helmet, some of the field notes, an old camera, and an expedition group photograph—for visitors to view as well so that they can get an idea of what we are doing. A few special tours have come through the lab and it has been great to interact with them and explain the project, why it is important, and what we hope to accomplish. It is quite rare in the archive world to have this much engagement with the public, so I am hopeful we can help demystify archives a little and show people what we are doing to make important primary materials more accessible.


Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 10:45 am

February 9, 2011

Expositions and Earthquakes

We just published two new finding aids on the Online Archive of California. One is for the Exhibits and Expositions collection and the other is for the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 collection. Both collections are small artificial collections that were gathered together over time by Academy staff.

The Exhibits and Expositions collection mainly relates to three expositions held in San Francisco: the California Midwinter Fair (1894), the Pan-Pacific International Exposition (1915), and the Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-1940). The collection consists primarily of publications, photographs, postcards, illustrations, maps, and ephemera such as tickets, souvenirs, coins, medals, and pins.

Mechanic's Building, 1894.

Mechanic Arts Building, California Midwinter Fair, 1894

We processed The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 collection because we have had several reference questions about that earthquake recently and we wanted to be able to reference the material easily. This collection is mostly comprised of  publications, newspaper clippings, reports and photographs.

San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, Market Street Fire postcard.

San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, Market Street Fire postcard

There are two collections that are related to our Exhibits and Expositions collection that don’t have online finding aids yet. One is  a group of twenty five glass plate negatives from the MidWinter Fair and the second is the Raymond H. Clary MidWinter Fair collection. We are currently working on a Library Reading Room exhibit of items from the Clary collection that will feature one of my favorite items in the Archive – a mustache spoon. Stay tuned for more information on the Clary collection exhibit.

General view of Midwinter Fair, circa 1894. Midwinter Fair Glass Plate Negative Collection.

N255. General view of Midwinter Fair, circa 1894. Midwinter Fair Glass Plate Negative Collection. Photographer unknown.

Ticket and stub for San Francisco Day at the Midwinter Fair. July 4, 1894.

Ticket and stub for San Francisco Day at the Midwinter Fair.           July 4, 1894. Raymond Clary MidWinter Fair Collection.

- Danielle
Archives & Digital Collections Librarian


Filed under: Archives,Archives finds — Archives & Special Collections @ 3:00 pm

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

Resources:

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
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