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).

The Gift of Adoption

This entry was written by Linda Blancato, book lover and Adopt-a-Book supporter. I’ve always been a librarian at heart. My father was a master bookbinder who owned a bindery in Baltimore, Maryland. He instilled in his family a love and respect for all things related to books: the cover, the bindings, the pages, and of course the content. From a young age, I’ve always appreciated that the real value of books includes more »

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.

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 »

Increasing accessibility with the “MARC cocktail”

This post was written by Lesley Parilla, database manager and cataloger for the Field Book Project. What is a library to do when it has fabulous materials to share with users, but making library records for each item requires significantly more time than a typical collection? This was the challenge of the Russell E. Train Africana collection. It contained materials with both broad public appeal and significant historical value, however content and more »

Bloch’s Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische

For many Americans, mid-summer is best spent by the shore; beaches and lakes are traditionally packed this time of year. And if you’re lucky, that little time by the water will involve a glimpse at some aquatic life — a sand crab, a sea star, perhaps a fish or two. If your summer sightings have inspired an interest in fish (or perhaps you want to save yourself the sunscreen and view some more »

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