Beyond Shells: The Birth of Malacology

Until the late 18th century, the study of mollusks was based largely on shells. Very little research or published information existed about molluscan anatomy and soft tissues. Giuseppe Saverio Poli, recognized by many as the father of malacology, changed this with his monumental publication, Testacea utriusque Siciliae eorumque historia et anatome (1791-1827).

A Salesman in 1917

While browsing the Trade Literature Collection, you never know what you might find. One search might lead you to discover something you never realized was even there. Recently, I was searching for catalogs related to food or ones that included recipes. That led me to this 1917 almanac from J. R. Watkins Medical Co.

A notable autograph for National Aviation Day

In honor of National Aviation Day, Smithsonian Libraries (SIL) turns to a piece of history found in the Ramsey Room. Established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939, National Aviation Day is celebrated every year on August 19th, which is also the birthday of Orville Wright.

Fun with #FantasticObjects

On Friday, August 7th, the Smithsonian Libraries and the National Museum of American History hosted a tweetup in the recently renovated Innovation wing (First Floor, West) of the museum. Fifteen Twitter followers joined us for special curator-led tours of Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project, Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910 and the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. The group of tweeters represented a fun mix of educators, more »

Elaine de Kooning: Portraits in the Art and Artist Files

The National Portrait Gallery is currently exhibiting the work of Elaine de Kooning in the show Elaine de Kooning: Portraits, organized by Brandon Brame Fortune, the Portrait Gallery’s chief curator and senior curator of painting and sculpture. Elaine was an active member of the Abstract Expressionists in New York, a group known for a style defined by vivid colors, spontaneity and emotive strokes of thick, layered paint on monumental canvases. She married more »

Charting the Chesapeake from a Civil War Map

Familiar with its waters, I was delighted when an early chart of the Chesapeake Bay, entitled Map of part of Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware of 1861, appeared in my cataloging queue. But then who doesn’t like looking at old maps? Getting absorbed in what is fanciful, long-gone or merely changed, and finding remnants of the well-known from a long association with the landscape. And reading any map on paper doesn’t happen every more »

Support Galileo in the Smithsonian Summer Showdown!

Galileo Galilei, one of the most famous and important scientists of all time, a man whose ideas survived Roman Inquisition and house arrest, is going up against Jackson Pollock, Langston Hughes and others to determine who  is the “Most Seriously Amazing” at the Smithsonian. In this second annual contest, units from around the Smithsonian have picked their most remarkable objects and are asking the public to vote for the best of the more »

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