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Thursday, March 31, 2016

When New England was New

By: Julia Blakely 
Special Collections Cataloger 
Smithsonian Libraries

Map of eastern North America. Detail of engraved map by Nicolaes Jansz Visscher, made about 1655, not long after Josselyn's first journey to the New World. Note the prominent, plump turkey. Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution 
It is a small book, palm-size, with pages of less-than-fine paper, the well-worn letters of the type sometimes carelessly inked. The sparse woodcut illustrations are child-like in their simplicity and straight-forwardness. Yet John Josselyn’s New-Englands rarities discovered, printed in London in 1672, drew me in as I went about cataloging the work. Intrigued by the title and the early date of publication, I found myself reading an account of the landscape of my past, from Boston, “down east” (that is, up the coast as represented in the above illustration) to my place of birth, and points all around. That great bibliography, The Hunt Botanical Catalogue, notes that this book is “particularly interesting to people who are fond of Maine.” Indeed. The text provides a sense of place from the 17th century.

Having refreshed my self here [Boston] for some time, and opportunely lighting upon a passage in a Bark belonging to a Friend of my Brothers, and bound to the Eastward, I put to sea again, and on the Fifteenth of August I arrived at Black-point, otherwise called Scarborow, the habitation of my beloved Brother, being about an hundred leagues to the Eastward of Boston; here I resided eight years, and made it my business to discover all along the Natural, Physical, and Chyrurgical Rarities of the New-found World. 

BHL digitized copy, supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library.
New-Englands rarities is an account of the author’s two journeys to America, the first in 1638 for several months and again in 1663 for a stay of eight years. Despite the autobiographical nature of the work, not much is known of Josselyn, “active” in cataloging parlance, from 1630 to 1675, and born around 1608 in Essex County. The author comes across as a learned, if not terribly discerning, gentleman with possibly a medical background. He describes the topography, customs and the natural history of the country, with great interest in the healing properties of organic materials from recipes used by both native Americans and colonists, leading to speculation that the Englishman was a physician. It may be Josselyn was simply well-read and the curious type. The era of European plant exploration in the New World, for both therapeutic, consumption and ornamental purposes, was underway by the time of Josselyn’s travels. There would be a ready audience for such information, particularly in a relatively accessible and inexpensive publication. 

Prouts Neck. Painting by Winslow Homer (1836-1910), Smithsonian American Art Museums
“Scarborow” is the coastal area of Scarborough, incorporated as a town in 1658 in the present state of Maine. One of the area settlements was “Black-point” (originally a patent of 1500 acres) that included the rocky shoreline of present-day Prouts Neck, of artist Winslow Homer-fame (a place now known for exclusiveness). It was here that John Josselyn’s brother Henry lived and worked along the sea, rivers, stretches of salt marshes and sandy beaches. Henry Josselyn was representing the Royal grant of land, Council of Gorges' Province of Maine, by 1636, and later served as Deputy-Governor. 

There is some evidence that Henry Josselyn may have ascended the highest mountain in the Northeast, the 6,288-foot (1,917-meter) Mount Washington. His brother John, as did Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524, observed and recorded the peak (known by various names before European settlement) from shipboard in the Atlantic Ocean as “one stately mountain …  surmounting the rest”:

Fourscore miles (upon a direct line) to the Northwest of Scarborow, a Ridge of Mountains run Northwest and Northeast an hundred Leagues, known by the name of the White Mountains, upon which lieth Snow all year, and is a Land-mark twenty miles off at Sea. 

Skiing at Tuckerman's Ravine, Mt. Washington, N. H. Watercolor by Arnold Holeywell (1923-2010). Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the Ford Motor Company
John Josselyn’s further writings indicate that he probably also summited the mountain (as I did one June, when there was still snow on the slopes). Now a not-particularly arduous but long day’s hike in good weather along groomed trails, it was not a casual undertaking in the 1660’s. It is a volatile place with fierce, sometimes unpredictable, weather. The Josselyns probably journeyed along the magnificent Saco River, south of Scarborough, to reach the range. There John Josselyn made meteorological observations (The Mount Washington Observatory on April 12, 1934, recorded the wind at 231 miles per hour, a record that held through the 20th century).  

Josselyn liked to compose catalogs and there is humor sprinkled about his lists. In the one on fishes, he prefaced: “Pliny and Isadore write there are not above 144 Kinds of Fishes, but to my knowledge there are nearer 300: I suppose America was not known to Pliny and Isadore.” The account of his unfortunate encounter with a wasp nest begins with his belief he was coming across an exotic fruit. And, amusing for readers today, Josselyn was none too fond of the Puritans of the Bay Colony. The Native Americans, on the other hand, were regarded with admiration.

Touch-me-not or Hummingbird tree - a favorite of the bird to feed upon. Josselyn, John. New-Englands rarities. (1672). Digitized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/47579388.   
For botany researchers there is much information to decipher from New-Englands rarities. Twenty-two invasive species or weeds are listed under a section “Of such Plants as have sprung up since the English Planted and kept Cattle in New-England” (the reference to cows is of their manure). In Josselyn’s identifications, sow thistle, night shade, mallowes, wormwood, bloodwort, and cheek weed are recorded; some are identifiable today, others not. According to noted botanist, ecologist and conservationist Paul Sears, Josselyn provides the first mention of the now-ubiquitous dandelion in America. From the many references, it is evident that the author had with him the hefty 1633 Thomas Johnson’s edition of Herball by John Gerard, “our famous Herbalist.” Josselyn notes the New World plants described by Gerard as well as Parkinson and points out his own discoveries, such as skunk cabbage and the pitcher-plant.

Herb True Love: "the leaves are good to be laid upon hot tumors." Josselyn, John. New-Englands rarities. (1672). Digitized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/47579357
Recipes, whether for medical purposes or nourishment, are sprinkled throughout the text. The wild turkey is fully described for the first time and what must be one of the earliest records of meat being eaten with cranberries as "it is a delicate Sauce." Josselyn also mentions “pompions” (pumpkin) pie. The colonists of course learned about the cultivation of pumpkins, squash and corn from the native inhabitants. “Billberries” (blueberries), are reported to be “very good to allay the burning heat of Feavers and hot Agues, either in Syrup or Conserve. A most excellent Summer Dish." Peas, grown in New England, "are the best in the world."

Josselyn, John. New-Englands rarities. (1672). Digitized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/47579390
Josselyn soon expanded New-Englands rarities with An account of two voyages to New England in 1674 (BHL copy digitized from the Smithsonian Libraries). The dedication in this edition is loftier and more ambitious: to the President and Fellows of the Royal Society. A relative of Josseyln’s, Samuel Fortrey, had helped pay for the printing of the earlier work. There is far more detail on the provisioning and crossings of the ships and attendant illnesses and deaths. There is also a disturbing story of the rape of a slave on Noodles Island in Boston Harbor, a horrifying but important testament in the history of slavery in New England.  

Two voyages to New England provides more scenes of the coast. Monhegan Island, a favorite place of mine, is a speck about ten miles from the nearest mainland. Following European explorers Martin Pring, Samuel de Champlain, George Weymouth, John Smith (and before these sailors, possibly the Vikings), Josselyn reported that Monhegan was filled with fisherman’s houses and shacks, long a staging area for drying fish and post for fur traders to send their goods across the Atlantic. Cod was the great commodity, harvested from the abundant fishing grounds of the Gulf of Maine and along the coast. Since the mid-19th century, Monhegan, spectacularly ruggedly beautiful, has been better known as an artist colony and draw for tourists, at least in the summer.

Monhegan Harbor, oil painting by C. K. Chatterton (1880-1973). Smithsonian American Art Museum, bequest of Olin Dows
New-Englands rarities was cited by the great Swedish zoologist and botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, attesting to its completeness and authority on flora and fauna for about a century. It also inspired a certain type of travel literature. Henry David Thoreau was an admirer and in A week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849) wrote of Josselyn’s speaking of “the strong new soil.” Soon after I encountered the book in the Cullman Library of Natural History, I came across a reprinted edition while in Salem, Massachusetts in the gift shop of the House of the Seven Gables. Most valued today for its accounting of plants, the book and its successor, An account of two voyages, have much to offer historians of indigenous cultures about the impact of European settlements, cookery, gardens, religion, folklore, meteorology, geology, and maritime and social norms of the early colonial period in America. Its sense of wonder about the landscape of the New World provides the modern reader with a sense of the place.

Josselyn’s last printed words:

Now by the merciful providence of the Almighty, having performed Two voyages to the North-east parts of the Western-world, I am safely arrived in my Native Countrey; having in part made good the French proverb, Traveul where thou canst, but dye where thou oughtest, that is, in thine own Countrey.


Notes

New-Englands rarities has frequently been reprinted. Many of those editions, as well as the National Agricultural Library’s copy of the first, have been digitized by the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The Cullman Library’s copy had been rebound too tightly for it to be safely scanned. It also lacks the last leaf containing the printer's device.

The printer Giles Widdows' woodcut mark, with his initials and winged dragon. Josselyn, John. New-Englands rarities. (1672). Digitized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/47579382.
Leighton, Ann. Early American gardens “for meate or medicine.” Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1986. 

'The American Sunflower" Josselyn wrote: "The plants in New-England for the variety, number, beauty, and vertues, many stand in Competition with the plants of any Countrey in Europe." Josselyn, John. New-Englands rarities. (1672). Digitized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/47579359


Black Point, Scarborough. Charcoal and chalk drawing of approximately 1884, by Winslow Homer. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Collection. Josselyn reported of a spring at Black Point that was "purgative and cures scabs and Itch." Along with the springs, the Englishman was taken with the curative properties of the waters in the New World.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

John Bartram’s Journey to Onondago

By: Mai Reitmeyer 
Sr. Research Services Librarian 
American Museum of Natural History Library 

John Bartram was born in Marple, Pennsylvania in 1699. Although he received limited formal education, he eventually distinguished himself as one of the leading botanists of his day. Through an early and intense interest in botany, he collected rare and useful plants and seeds throughout the colonies which he provided to the gentlemen of Europe, an opportunity which arose from his close friendship with the English botanist, Peter Collinson.

He also established one of the finest botanic gardens of the colonial period in Kingsessing (now part of the park system in south Philadelphia). He grew dozens of species of trees, shrubs, and other plants collected on his travels. He even experimented with breeding and selection of cultivars to meet a demand abroad for exotic plants. His botanical supply business was so successful that it provided the income and incentive that enabled him to travel around the colonies and to Florida in search of new specimens.

One such collecting trip occurred in July 1743, when Bartram accompanied Conrad Weiser and Lewis Evans, a skilled cartographer, on a journey to the Iroquois capital, Onondaga (modern day Syracuse). Interestingly, the primary purpose of this trip was more diplomatic than scientific. Weiser was officially Pennsylvania’s main ambassador to the Native Americans. There had been a clash between settlers in Western Virginia and an Iroquois hunting party in the fall of 1742, and rumors of a possible war in Virginia had alarmed those in Pennsylvania. The trip was meant to encourage peace between the Iroquois Confederacy and Virginia. Bartram saw this trip as an opportunity to explore the vast forests in this little known Indian territory, as yet undisturbed by European settlers.

In addition to plant material, Bartram’s English botanist friend, Peter Collinson, had requested a written account of the trip. Unfortunately, in the spring of 1744, the ship carrying Bartram's manuscript and specimens to London was captured by the French. Bartram had to make another copy of his journal and this copy did not reach Collinson until 1750.

The account of Bartram’s six week journey from Pennsylvania to Upstate New York was so popular among Collinson’s circle that Collinson had the work printed in 1751 by J. Whiston and B. White in London. The published work was entitled Observations on the inhabitants, climate, soil, rivers, productions, animals, and other matters worthy of notice, made by Mr. John Bartram, in his travels from Pensilvania to Onondago, Oswego and the lake Ontario in Canada; to which is annex'd, a curious account of the cataracts at Niagara, by Mr. Peter Kalm, a Swedish gentleman who traveled there and included a brief description of Niagara Falls by the naturalist Peter Kalm.

Title Page. Bartram, John. Observations on the inhabitants, climate, soil, rivers, productions, animals, and other matters worthy of notice, made by Mr. John Bartram, in his travels from Pensilvania to Onondago, Oswego and the lake Ontario in Canada; to which is annex'd, a curious account of the cataracts at Niagara, by Mr. Peter Kalm, a Swedish gentleman who traveled there. Digitized by the American Museum of Natural History Library. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/49569568.

Unfortunately, at the time, this work was criticized by some for not including enough detail in the descriptions of the plants that Bartram encountered. This criticism does not account for the fact that the journal had been written as a running account for Collinson, who would already have been familiar with the plants that Bartram mentioned. Others criticized the errors in spelling and syntax found throughout the work, due to lack of editing and because the printer had trouble interpreting Bartram’s handwriting and spelling. Today, this work is viewed as an important early insight into the region's ecology and the activities of the Native American population during the colonial period.

Engraved frontispiece of "the Town of Oswego" illustrating an Iroquois longhouse. Bartram, John. Observations on the inhabitants, climate, soil, rivers, productions, animals, and other matters worthy of notice, made by Mr. John Bartram, in his travels from Pensilvania to Onondago, Oswego and the lake Ontario in Canada; to which is annex'd, a curious account of the cataracts at Niagara, by Mr. Peter Kalm, a Swedish gentleman who traveled there. Digitized by the American Museum of Natural History Library. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/49569569.

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) Library recently digitized its copy of this work and has made the volume accessible via BHL at this link: http://dx.doi.org/10.5962/bhl.title.112297. This volume was purchased by the Library in 1941 from a local bookseller. The original owner of this copy was Frank Hayward Severance (1856-1931), a leading authority on the Buffalo /Niagara area during the early twentieth century. After graduating from Cornell University in 1879, Severance spent the early part of his career as a reporter, editor and lecturer. He later authored several books about the Niagara frontier.

References:

  • Berkeley, Edmund and Dorothy Smith Berkeley. (1981). The life and travels of John Bartram : from Lake Ontario to the River St. John. Tallahassee : University Presses of Florida.
  • Severance, Frank Hayward. (2009). In MarquisWho'sWho, Marquis who was who in America 1607-1984. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who's Who LLC.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Discovering the Deep Sea

Vanhöffen, Ernst. Die acraspeden Medusen der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition, 1898-1899. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2121639. Digitized by MBLWHOI Library.

In 1872, the Royal Society of London launched the first non-commercial exploration of the deep sea – the Challenger Expedition. Covering nearly 70,000 nautical miles and resulting in the discovery of nearly 4,700 new-to-science species of marine life, the expedition revolutionized knowledge of the ocean and the field of oceanography. It also ignited an interest in deep-sea dredging as a means of scientific discovery.


Carl Chun, a German zoologist, was particularly inspired by the Challenger's discoveries. Recognizing an opportunity to secure Germany's prominence in the developing field of deep-sea oceanography and expand the world's scientific knowledge by targeting areas not visited by the Challenger, Chun presented a plan for a deep-sea expedition to the German Society of Naturalists and Physicians in 1897. In July 1898, under Chun's scientific leadership, the Valdivia set sail from Hamburg with a team of exceptional scientists and an arsenal of the latest technology and equipment (Stiassny, 135).

Vanhöffen, Ernst. Die acraspeden Medusen der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition, 1898-1899http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2121607. Digitized by MBLWHOI Library.

The expedition covered over 32,000 nautical miles, visited 268 stations around the West Coast of South Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, the Antarctic Sea, and a large portion of the Indian Ocean, and collected a wealth of specimens (many of which were new to science) from depths greater than 13,000 feet. Over seventy scientists worked for forty years to publish twenty-four volumes detailing the expedition's scientific discoveries. The series, which was edited by Chun until his death in 1914 and afterwards by August Brauer, was entitled Wissenschaftliche Ergebniss der Deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition auf dem Dampfer "Valdivia" 1898-1899 (translates to "Scientific Results of the German Deep-Sea Expedition, on the steamer Valdivia 1898-1899") (Stiassny, 136).

Vanhöffen, Ernst. Die acraspeden Medusen der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition, 1898-1899http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2121611. Digitized by MBLWHOI Library.

German biologist Ernst Vanhöffen, an expert on jellyfish, was a member of the expedition's scientific crew. After the voyage, he worked to study, classify, and describe the jellyfish specimens collected during the expedition. He published his findings in 1902 as two parts within the larger twenty-four volume series. The works were entitled Die acraspeden Medusen der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition, 1898-1899 and Die craspedoten Medusen der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition, 1898-1899. The extraordinary images in these titles were drawn by Ew. H. Rübsaamen and lithographed by Fritz Winter, the expedition's shipboard artist (Stiassny, 139).

Vanhöffen, Ernst. Die craspedoten Medusen der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition, 1898-1899. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2121715. Digitized by MBLWHOI Library.
You can learn more about this amazing expedition, the resulting publications, and Chun and Vanhöffen's work in Dr. Melanie L. J. Stiassny's Natural Histories: Opulent Oceans, published as part of Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library. Browse the public domain volumes of Wissenschaftliche Ergebniss der Deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition auf dem Dampfer "Valdivia" 1898-1899 in BHL, digitized by the MBLWHOI Library and Smithsonian Libraries.

References
Stiassny, Melanie L.J. (2014). Natural Histories Opulent Oceans: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library. New York: Sterling Publishing.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Celebrating Careers in Libraries and Museum Day Live!

This Saturday, 12 March, the Smithsonian is coordinating a special edition of its signature Museum Day Live! event in a nationwide effort with museums and cultural institutions around the country to reach women and girls in underserved communities. Museum Day Live! will encourage all people, and particularly women and girls of color, to explore their nation’s museums, cultural institutions, zoos, aquariums, parks and libraries—which will offer free admission for the day.


The event is also intended to encourage people, especially young women, to think about careers in museums, libraries, and research. To this end, there will be a special career-focused event on March 12 in the Smithsonian Castle Commons in Washington, DC, consisting of lightning round discussions with museum professionals about careers in museums, a mix and mingle, and information tables. The discussions will be at 11:30am and 2:30pm EST; the mix and mingle will be from 1-2:30pm EST; the tables will be open from 12:30-3pm EST.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library is partnering with the Smithsonian Libraries, one of its founding Members, to host one of the information tables at the Museum Day Live! career event. The purpose of the tables is to expose people, especially students, to the wide range of careers within museums and museum libraries and highlight opportunities for participation.

In anticipation of the event, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the different staff who work on BHL at our partner institutions in order to give an idea of the many different types of jobs involved in making a digital library project a success. We also asked them to share any advice they can offer to someone interested in pursuing a career in that field.



Alison Harding. 
Librarian, Ornithology and Rothschild Libraries. Natural History Museum, London.

I work for the Natural History Museum at the Tring site (about 35 miles North of London) in Hertfordshire. The site is based at what was the Zoological Museum of Tring founded by Lionel Walter, the 2nd Lord Rothschild, as the Museum of his personal collection and a research facility for his peers. It is now a Victorian style museum open to the public and the repository for the Ornithological collection of the NHM.

As a one man band but part of a larger organization, I have a mixed post and can be asked to do just about anything. I curate the modern ornithological book and journal collections, the Victorian Rothschild Library (books dating back to the 16th century) and the ornithological manuscript collection. I select materials to purchase, care for the collections on a day to day basis, answer enquiries, look after visitors, assist in management of the NHM repository, supply loans and copies, do cataloguing and manage the NHM BHL scanning workflow. The BHL workflow involves administering our rota and scan list, answering queries, editing our records and generally being the ‘go to’ BHL person in the NHM.

My advice for people interested in becoming a librarian? Get some library work before studying for a professional qualification. Also be flexible. I am an ‘Information Scientist’ and worked in that field for several years but then took on a local part time ‘Library’ post to find I really loved it and am still here 15 years later. I think it is great to take on new tasks and volunteer for new things as this can change your job immensely, as when I said yes to BHL!

Katie Wagner
Book Conservator. Smithsonian Libraries.

I am a book conservator for Smithsonian Libraries focusing on the conservation treatment of our rare books found throughout the branches of our library system.

In support of BHL, I review all rare material to determine if it is stable enough to undergo scanning. We scan either with a copystand set up, that is gentler on the material but more time consuming, or in a book cradle style scanner. If a book is not stable enough to scan I determine whether conservation treatment can stabilize the material sufficiently to undergo scanning. I then execute the conservation treatment which can be as simple as paper repair or as difficult as re-sewing and re-binding a book. 

Book conservation is a field that requires a combination of excellent hand and analytical skills. Many conservators come from artistic or scientific backgrounds. My advice, if you are interested in the field, is to start by taking a hand bookbinding class. Many institutions offer pre-program internships that can help you decide if this is a career path you would like to pursue.

Diana Shih
Assistant Director for Bibliographic Records Management. American Museum of Natural History.

As the senior cataloging librarian at the American Museum of Natural History Research Library, I catalog all of our materials, including serials, art and memorabilia, manuscripts and archives, videos, etc. (with the exception of new books, which are cataloged by my part-time colleague) and fix bibliographic problems from older catalog records. This does not sound very exciting, but I've loved every single day of working at the museum. My work often requires me to do research on obscure and esoteric matters, and I can say that I learn something new every day. I'm also gratified to be able to contribute to creating better records for the benefit of other catalogers and users at large. As the BHL coordinator here, I am responsible for most steps related to contributing AMNH materials to BHL: selecting the materials to be scanned, getting them from the stacks, barcoding them, verifying the bibliographic records, counting pages, and filling out the administrative documents required for digitization.

These are exciting times for museum libraries because they contain a wealth of materials not readily accessible elsewhere, and technology is now allowing us to not only make them widely available but also to link related information across a wide spectrum of disciplines for the benefit of researchers worldwide. Being part of this effort is a big motivation for getting a degree in librarianship, which teaches also how to create and manipulate data in a coherent and efficient manner.

I would advise people interested in jobs like mine to do cataloging/metadata internships in various institutions to determine if they would enjoy such a field of work.

Lesley Parilla
Cataloging Coordinator. The Field Book Project.

The Field Book Project (a joint initiative at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Smithsonian Libraries, and the National Museum of Natural History to increase accessibility to field book content that documents natural history), I manage cataloging and metadata, including contribution of digitized content to the Biodiversity Heritage Library. This has meant working closely with BHL staff to develop a workflow that addresses the unique metadata needs of archival materials. It is exciting to work with the primary resources of scientists and explorers and make the rich content available to users around the world through BHL.
As the Cataloging Coordinator of

In my work it has been invaluable to have a background in paper conservation as well as experience with archives and special collections. It might surprise many to know that several of the people (including myself) who work on the project don’t have a background in the natural sciences. Often it is a strong sense of curiosity, ability to work with a team, and an understanding of information management that makes all the difference in the job.

Constance Rinaldo
Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University 

I manage staff, work with faculty, students, and curatorial staff by providing research and learning assistance, develop policy for the Ernst Mayr Library at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and work with Harvard Library on policy, strategy and change issues that affect the Harvard Library. As a librarian with a science background, being embedded in a natural history museum that is part of a university community is a delightfully fortuitous combination. Part of my job is bridging the worlds of museum specimens/sciences and library literature and recommending and using technological advancements—like the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The Ernst Mayr Library is a founding member of the BHL. As Vice-Chair of the BHL members Executive Committee, I have many opportunities to work with members, affiliates, and particularly the global participants as they make digitization decisions and review content. It is exciting to understand how natural history libraries around the world function and thrive.

The Ernst Mayr Library supports the BHL by participating in and leading grant opportunities, providing day-to-day metadata enhancement, digitizing collections, and participating in outreach through social media and direct interactions with potential members or contributors.

My advice: Pursue your passions with an eye to what is practical. Keep up in your chosen interests. Stay ahead of the curve and embrace opportunities for change. Look for the change opportunities.

Thanks to our BHL Family, and we hope to see you on Saturday!

We extend a special thanks to our colleagues for taking the time to share more about their careers and involvement in BHL. This post is only a tiny snapshot of all of the incredible people who collaborate to make BHL a success. Thank you so much to every member of the BHL Family. We would not exist without the dedication of so many individuals at so many amazing institutions!

If you're in the Washington, DC area on March 12, we encourage you to stop by the Smithsonian Castle Commons (1000 Jefferson Drive, SW Washington, DC 20560) anytime between 12:30-3pm EST to talk with staff from both BHL and the Smithsonian Libraries about careers in libraries and ways that you can get involved with our organizations today. If you can't make it in person, we encourage you to find out how you can get involved in BHL no matter where you live.

The Smithsonian Libraries is also hosting another fun event during the day called "Explore the Four," which encourages visitors to explore all four of the Libraries' current exhibits. Finally, we'll be sharing highlights from the day through BHL's (@BioDivLibrary) and Smithsonian Libraries' (@SILibraries) social media accounts with the hashtag #MuseumDay. Follow along to join in the fun!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Following Early Naturalists of the American West

Yellowstone National Park is famous worldwide for its vast forests, abundance of wildlife - including a wide variety of North American megafauna, and its natural landmarks like Old Faithful Geyser. The Park, which spans over 3,400 square miles, was established by Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, making it the first national park ever established. In addition to over 350 species of animals, over 1,000 plant species call the park home. [1]

The first actual flora of the park was published in 1886 by a man named Frank Tweedy. [2] Tweedy was a topographical engineer born in New York City in 1854. Between 1884-85, Tweedy was in Yellowstone mapping the topography of the park for a project with the U.S. Geological Survey. During his time in Yellowstone, Tweedy also collected plant specimens, ultimately spending two full summers botanizing. This work resulted in 600 species being added to his personal herbarium, which is now housed at Yale, and the production of his self-published Flora of the Yellowstone National Park in 1886.

The Flora was a "remarkably accurate" [2, pg. 31] work and is one of freelance field botanist Hollis Marriott's favorite publications in BHL.

Hollis Marriott (as Mrs. Celia Alice Nelson) and Ali Suku (as student assistant Leslie Goodding) demonstrate plant collecting methods of 1899. That year, Professor Aven Nelson, his family and two student assistants spent 14 weeks botanizing in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Bonnie Heidel, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database. Rocky Mountain Herbarium Open House, October 2015.

Hollis has worked as a field botanist for forty years, specializing in conservation and public lands projects, mainly in Wyoming and South Dakota. Having the benefit of being "mostly retired," she now devotes much of her time to nature writing and photography. Topics include natural history, especially botany and geology, and the history of natural history — specifically exploration of the American West. She blogs at In the Company of Plants and Rocks and writes articles for regional publications.

As a valuable source of early literature on plants and botanists, BHL has become a very important asset for Hollis' research. While she was initially introduced to BHL through our blog, searches for early literature on plants and botanists of the American West led her to our online portal of over 48 million pages. It has now become her go-to resource for information about early naturalists and their work.

"I was really happy to find BHL!" emphasizes Hollis. "Now when I’m looking for information by and about early naturalists, it’s the first place I go. The best thing about BHL is quick, easy access to so much useful information. Documents that were difficult to access or unavailable just a few years ago are now just a search and a click away. What makes BHL stand out for me is all the early literature, especially first-person accounts of early botanical work. There’s something special about reading descriptions, conclusions, opinions and stories written by the pioneering botanists themselves."

Much of Hollis' recent work has benefited from the wealth of information available through BHL. She's used BHL to access "publications and correspondence by the great naturalist Thomas Nuttall; early studies of narrowleaf, Plains and lanceleaf cottonwoods; and a description of the rare Laramie columbine (Aquilegia laramiensis) by Wyoming’s pioneering botanist, Aven Nelson."  Related to Nelson, Hollis adds, "I just finished a paper for Yellowstone Science about Aven Nelson’s botanical expedition to Yellowstone National Park in 1899. Almost all information about the substantial botanical work in the Park prior to Nelson’s project came from BHL."

Field crew for Aven Nelson’s 1899 Yellowstone expedition. Left to right: Helen and Neva Nelson, Leslie Goodding (student assistant) and (Mrs.) Celia Alice Nelson. Note plant presses and stacks of blotter paper in the wagon, and two vascula (metal collecting containers) by the wagon wheel. Photo by Aven Nelson. Aven Nelson Collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Currently, Hollis is using sources in BHL to inform research for several blog posts and an article about early botanist Edwin James. Her most recent historical botany post, James and Jamesia—a man and his shrub, is about James and his eponymous genus Jamesia (cliffbush), which he discovered during the Long Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1820. The list of Sources at the end of the post shows just how valuable BHL is for this kind of research. Hollis is also using BHL to support research on another history of botany project about Frank Tweedy, the author of the notable Yellowstone Flora described earlier.

Jamesia americana, named after discoverer Edwin James. Curtis's Botanical Magazine. v. 101 (1875). http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/435989. Digitized for BHL by the Missouri Botanical Garden, Peter H. Raven Library.

Hollis' use of BHL is erratic, depending on the needs of her current project. When accessing content on BHL, she will usually read the titles online, copying selected text using the OCR option. For larger excerpts, she downloads custom PDFs with the OCR option.

Hollis is quick to add that her use of BHL isn't just limited to work-related needs:

"I also use BHL 'for fun' — for example browsing in response to a BHL blog post (I’m a regular reader), or just looking for things of interest or ideas for blog posts."

As early field notes are so important to Hollis' work, she's eager to see more digitized for the BHL collection. It's a wish that will soon be fulfilled, thanks to our recently-funded "Biodiversity Heritage Library Field Notes Project," which will support work to digitize archival field notes in participating institution collections.

Historic literature is a vital source of information about the natural world and the efforts of early naturalists to explore, catalog, and describe the great diversity of life on our planet. We're proud that BHL, by providing free and open access to library and archival collections around the world, can help researchers like Hollis share the incredible stories that these materials hold.

BHL's existence depends on the support of its patrons. Help us keep this free resource alive with a tax-deductible donation.

References
[1] "Park Facts". National Park Service. December 22, 2015. Retrieved 2016-3-3.
[2] "Park Botanist Jennifer Whipple and Yellowstone's Herbarium." Yellowstone Science. 12.4 (2004): 25-34. Accessed Online.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

BHL Welcomes Two New Affiliates

The Internet Archive, a non-profit institution based in San Francisco and long-time BHL partner in digitization efforts, and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, one of the world's premier natural history museums, based in Leiden, The Netherlands, have joined the Biodiversity Heritage Library as Affiliates. These new partnerships will allow BHL to expand the breadth and depth of its online collection and strengthen the consortium's technical expertise. The BHL consortium now consists of ten Affiliates and fifteen Members.

The Internet Archive


The Internet Archive (IA) was founded in 1996 with the mission to provide "Universal access to all Knowledge." The organization seeks to preserve our shared cultural heritage and to provide open access to our cultural artifacts in the digital era, supporting the work of historians, scholars, journalists, students, the blind and reading disabled, as well as the general public. The Internet Archive’s digital collections include more than 460 billion Web captures, moving images (2.2 M videos and films), audio (2.5 M recordings, 140k concerts), texts (8M texts and digital books), software (100,000 items) and television (3M hours). It has created new models for digital conservation by forging alliances with more than 400 libraries, universities and national archives around the world. IA employs approximately 150 staff worldwide, including those scanning books in 30 centers in 4 continents, with expertise in a wide variety of areas including digitization, technical development, large scale storage, web archiving, collection management, fundraising, and public outreach, particularly in the policy realm.

The Internet Archive has been partnering with BHL on digitization and technical activities for over a decade. IA's scanning technology was the basis for BHL scanning starting in 2006. IA also built and manages the underlying technical infrastructure that delivers and stores the BHL content. BHL was also the proud recipient of the Internet Archive's Internet Heroes award in 2015.

Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive headquarters in San Francisco, CA. 

"This move to Affiliate status formalizes a relationship that stretches back over ten years," emphasized Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive Founder and Digital Librarian. "The Internet Archive was built through the collaboration of people and institutions from all around the world. One of the earliest library consortia to partner with IA was the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Through its collaboration with the BHL, IA maintains a strong interest in biodiversity, but the key benefits to both organizations in the Archive's joining BHL as an Affiliate will be in the areas of technology, collaborative grants, building new partnerships, and advocacy for open content."

The Naturalis Biodiversity Center

The Library of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center is of national importance, holding approximately 350,000 books, journals, rare books, drawings and a variety of archival material. The library collection of the Dutch Entomological Society is also incorporated. For almost 200 years, collection concentrations have been linked to Naturalis' research themes. Through its affiliation, Naturalis will enhance the Biodiversity Heritage Library's current corpus of over 48 million pages through the contribution of titles not yet found within BHL's collection.

"I am very pleased that we now can share our digitized library collection in BHL," stated Caroline Pepermans, Head of Library Collections at Naturalis. "In our domain BHL is 'the' global repository of legacy biodiversity literature. Our affiliation fits very well with our strategic goals of sharing knowledge, resources and data. We are excited to participate in such an innovative consortium as BHL."


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Celebrating Women In Science and Museum Day Live

March is Women's History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. In recognition of this celebration, the Smithsonian is coordinating a special edition of its signature Museum Day Live! event in a nationwide effort with museums and cultural institutions around the country to reach women and girls in underserved communities.


Held on March 12, 2016, Museum Day Live! will encourage all people, and particularly women and girls of color, to explore their nation’s museums, cultural institutions, zoos, aquariums, parks and libraries—which will offer free admission for the day.

The event is also intended to encourage people, especially young women, to think about careers in museums, libraries, and research. To this end, there will be a special career-focused event on March 12 in the Smithsonian Castle Commons in Washington, DC, consisting of lightning round discussions with museum professionals about careers in museums, a mix and mingle, and information tables. The discussions will be at 11:30am and 2:30pm EST; the mix and mingle will be from 1-2:30pm EST; the tables will be open from 12:30-3pm EST.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library is partnering with the Smithsonian Libraries, one of its founding Members, to host one of the information tables at the Museum Day Live! career event. The purpose of the tables is to expose people, especially students, to the wide range of careers and units within the Smithsonian, as well as any opportunities that they may be able to participate in.

If you're in the area, we encourage you to stop by the Smithsonian Castle Commons (1000 Jefferson Drive, SW Washington, DC 20560) anytime between 12:30-3pm EST to talk with staff from both BHL and the Smithsonian Libraries about careers in libraries and ways that you can get involved with our organizations today. The Smithsonian Libraries is also hosting another fun event during the day called "Explore the Four," which encourages visitors to explore all four of the Libraries' current exhibits.

Celebrating Women in Natural History, BHL-Style


To celebrate both Women's History Month and in recognition of the event's mission to reach young women in particular, we'll be handing out special cards at the information table highlighting BHL's Notable Women in Natural History collection. This collection includes links to our Early Women in Science online exhibition (curated by Laurel E. Byrnes and funded by a grant from the Smithsonian Women's Committee), our collection of books authored, edited, or illustrated by women, and our Women Illustrators in Natural History Flickr collection containing over 1,500 biodiversity images illustrated by women. All images in the Flickr collection have also been tagged with the name of the artist (Check out the "tags" section and you'll see entries for "artist:name=[Insert Artist Name]").

The Notable Women in Natural History cards we'll be handing out at the Museum Day Live! information table on 12 March.

Additionally, since the Museum Day Live! event is also focused on sharing ways that people can get involved with libraries and cultural institutions around the country, we're encouraging visitors (and all of our online audiences!) to add species name machine tags to the images in the Women Illustrators in Natural History Flickr collection. These tags describe the species illustrated in each image and allow scientists and people all over the world to more easily discover visual resources about plants and animals of interest. Learn how you can help add tags to BHL images today.

King ragworm (Alitta virens) illustrated by Roberta McIntosh. A monograph of the British marine annelids. v. 2, pt. 2 (1910). http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/38533302. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

We hope you'll visit us at the Smithsonian Libraries information table on March 12, from 12:30-3pm EST, at the Smithsonian Castle Commons. If you can't make it in person, we encourage you to explore our Notable Women in Natural History collection on BHL and find out how you can get involved in BHL no matter where you live.

Monsonia speciosa illustrated by Henrietta Maria Moriarty. Fifty plates of green-house plants, drawn and coloured from nature (1807). http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/48345267. Digitized by Chicago Botanic Garden, Lenhardt Library.

We're excited to celebrate all women and girls, past and present, at Museum Day Live!, all this month, and everyday of the year. Happy Women's History Month!

Various Callia, Helix and Helicina species illustrated by Harriet Scott. A monograph of Australian land shells (1868). http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/1034564. Digitized by the MBLWHOI Library.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Early Land Plants and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

Bryophytes are green land plants that lack true vascular tissue. They encompass mosses (Bryophyta), hornworts (Anthocerotophyta) and liverworts (Marchantiophyta). Bryophytes form an important component in many ecosystems, offering microhabitats for an abundance of biodiversity including single-celled eukaryotes, protozoa, and many invertebrates (Gerson 1982). They also play an important part in the global carbon budget and can support climate change research by serving as "indicators of past climate change, [validating] climate models, and as potential indicators of global warming" (Söderström et al. 2016).

While bryophytes play such a critical role in their respective ecosystems, and while nomenclatural and auxiliary data for mosses is fairly strong, there has traditionally been a poor understanding of the full diversity and distribution of liverworts and hornworts. In the past, estimates of the number of liverwort species have ranged from 4,500-9,000 (a considerably wide range), while hornwort numbers are estimated to be in the low 200s (Söderström et al. 2016).

A forest carpet: Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) form a conspicuous component in many ecosystems throughout the world such as this forest in southern Chile. Image Credit: Juan Larrian.

Having a complete picture of the world's biodiversity allows us to understand the complexities of individual ecosystems, identify all of the contributors to those ecosystems and the roles that each plays, and thereby better understand the implications of losing one or more of those species. Such information supports the development of more holistic conservation strategies and provides policy makers with the information necessary to make informed decisions regarding research, development, and sustainability.

Recognizing this need to catalog Earth's biodiversity, in 2002 The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) set a target to develop “a widely accessible working list of all known plant species, as a step towards a complete world Flora” by 2010 (Lughadha 2004). Version 1.0 of The Plant List (http://www.theplantlist.org/), which aimed to be comprehensive for vascular plants and bryophytes, was released in December 2010. That same year, the GSPC's target was revised to include "an online flora of all known plants" by 2020 (Söderström et al. 2016). Although it was Darwin himself who more than a century ago voiced his intention to compile a complete catalog of all known plant species, such is yet to be realized.

To achieve the goal of a comprehensive online flora, working lists of plant taxa worldwide need to be created. The hornworts and liverworts, as described, were in particular need of such a working list, which, if created, could integrate dispersed taxonomic, systematic, and nomenclatural information and enable a better understanding of these plants' "diversity, patterns and processes" (Söderström et al. 2016).

On January 29, 2016, the first worldwide checklist of liverworts and hornworts was published through PhytoKeys, representing the culmination of an extensive effort led by Prof. Lars Söderström from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The checklist was produced through a collaboration of 41 taxonomic specialists and regional experts from 18 countries around the world. It provides a list and proposed systematic treatment for all known and currently accepted species of liverworts and hornworts along with citations for the first published scientific description of each. It includes 8,078 taxa (species and below) in 7,486 species representing 398 genera, 92 families, 20 orders and 7 classes from the two phyla. Each taxa is ranked by a three-star system indicating the level of confidence in the taxon's status and validity. The checklist is built on an underlying dataset which includes a "bibliography of 25,000 publications and approximately 39,000 published liverwort names (including “accepted” taxa, synonyms, invalid and illegitimate names)" (Söderström et al. 2016).

Dr Matt von Konrat, collecting in New Caledonia in 2012. Image Credit: Juan Larrian.

The bibliographic references contained in the checklist are a crucial "resource for liverwort and hornwort systematic and taxonomic research." It's a resource that BHL contributed extensively to. As the authors note, "A fundamental problem common to all nomenclatural indexing projects is the dispersed nature of the biological literature, some of which may date back over 250 years" (Söderström et al. 2016). Wherever possible, the checklist includes links to literature in BHL, which provides a central repository for much of the foundational taxonomic literature. Dr. Matthew von Konrat, co-author of the checklist, emphasized the significant role that BHL played in its development:

"Can I make BHL collectively blush with a list of adjectives describing how amazing BHL has been as a resource? I could write an entire diatribe, but very briefly, BHL has had a fundamental impact to our work and greatly accelerated our research efforts. BHL has saved us, literally, months and months of total hours of labour-intensive work. At the peak of when we were researching for the checklist, we would access BHL dozens of times a day."

Dr. von Konrat is the Head of Botanical Collections, Adjunct Curator, and McCarter Collections Manager (Bryophytes and Pteridophytes) at The Field Museum. His areas of interest include early land plants (bryophytes), plant evolution and taxonomy, outreach and citizen science. While plants have always been a passion of his ("I have early memories of walking through New Zealand rainforests admiring giant trees," he told us), his focused study in the field began with a bachelor’s degree in botany in 1989, followed by a Masters studying ferns. "However," Matt confided, "My academic and professional life took a turn when I started my PhD in an enigmatic group of plants called liverworts back in 1996."

While Matt was generally aware of BHL as early as 2007, he became fully aware of its potential and usefulness in 2009, thanks to the passionate outreach efforts of staff at The Field Museum Library, including Christine Giannoni and Diana Duncan. Since then, Matt has become a strong BHL supporter, even speaking at our Open BHL Day during the 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago at The Field Museum.

Dr. von Konrat speaking at Open BHL Day during the 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago at The Field Museum. Image Credit: Martin Kalfatovic.

"People from all over the world have rapid access to publications and journals that otherwise they would never have access to," lauds Matt. "This is critical when we live in an age of a major extinction crisis and there are not enough taxonomists to describe and document biodiversity before many species become extinct."

His enthusiasm extends to a number of the features offered in BHL:

"The fact that this information is free and readily available, having the capacity to search text in PDF’s, access OCR/text files, the friendly user interface, the connectivity between taxonomic names and publications, the external accessibility if books or articles have been scanned elsewhere etc. are just a few of [BHL's] outstanding features. I think it is important, in my enthusiasm for the technical elements, to not forget the people behind BHL that make this resource happen. This is everyone from our local librarians to the technological talent behind BHL."

Indeed, it's the dedicated team behind BHL that make it an invaluable tool for scientists like Matt and others around the world working to identify, describe, and perhaps even create checklists for Earth's biodiversity.

The World Checklist of Hornworts and Liverworts "was the first phase in providing a worldwide list of accepted names." Next, the authors plan "to establish a generally recognized online repository to augment the huge underlying informational auxiliary data of over 25,000 publications, almost 39,000 published names, and the over 700,000 geographical observations" (Söderström et al. 2016).

A microscopic image of an undescribed species of the liverwort Frullania collected by Dr. Peter de Lange in New Zealand. Image Credit: Matt von Konrat

While there is still more work to be done, this checklist represents a major milestone for liverwort and hornwort research and is an enormous accomplishment by the bryological community that not only involved the authors themselves, but many of their bryological colleagues, librarians, herbarium curators and staff who helped in countless ways, and many of the institutions that provided logistical or financial support including the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, The Field Museum, The National Science Foundation, and the Encyclopedia of Life. As the authors state in their publication, "The checklist has far reaching implications and applications, including providing a valuable tool for taxonomists and systematists, analyzing phytogeographic and diversity patterns, aiding in the assessment of floristic and taxonomic knowledge, and identifying geographical gaps in our understanding of the global liverwort and hornwort flora."

Furthermore, we're now one step closer to achieving "an online flora of all known plants" by 2020.

How can you help make a difference to the study of early land plants? Try your hand at MicroPlants, a citizen science initiative that asks you to measure microleaves in order to help scientists document and describe new species. The project is led by Matt and other scientists at The Field Museum and is hosted on Zooniverse - the platform which also hosts BHL's Science Gossip project!

References

  • Gerson U (1982) Bryophytes and invertebrates. In: Smith AJE (Ed.) Bryophyte Ecology. Chapman & Hall, London, 291–332. doi: 10.1007/978-94-009-5891-3_9
  • Lughadha EN (2004) Towards a working list of all known plant species. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B 359 (1444): 681–687. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2003.1446
  • Söderström L, Hagborg A, von Konrat M, Bartholomew-Began S, Bell D, Briscoe L, Brown E, Cargill DC, Costa DP, Crandall-Stotler BJ, Cooper ED, Dauphin G, Engel JJ, Feldberg K, Glenny D, Gradstein SR, He X, Heinrichs J, Hentschel J, Ilkiu-Borges AL, Katagiri T, Konstantinova NA, Larraín J, Long DG, Nebel M, Pócs T, Felisa Puche F, Reiner-Drehwald E, Renner MAM, Sass-Gyarmati A, Schäfer-Verwimp A, Moragues JGS, Stotler RE, Sukkharak P, Thiers BM, Uribe J, Váňa J, Villarreal JC, Wigginton M, Zhang L, Zhu R-L (2016) World checklist of hornworts and liverworts. PhytoKeys 59: 1-821. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.59.6261