An Imaginative World found in a Shell Book

  As a commemoration of the Imperial collection of shells in Vienna, the printed folio of Testacea Musei Caesarei Vindobonensis of 1780, is splendid. The eighteen engraved plates, carefully colored by hand, render individual specimens in the Habsburgs’ K.K. Hof-naturalien-Cabinet as if pieces of jewelry, casting shadows on a plain background of the thick, hand-made paper. Dedicated to the Empress of Austria, Maria Theresa (1717-1780), this production was also a work of more »

An Illustrated Natural History of German Frogs: Rösel’s Historia Naturalis Ranarum Nostratium

This post first appeared on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog.   Historia naturalis ranarum nostratium has been described as one of the most beautiful works devoted to frogs and amphibians. The work of German artist and naturalist August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof, Historia naturalis ranarum nostratium describes the natural history of all then-known frogs and toads indigenous to the Nuremberg region in Germany. The title is noteworthy first for the extensive, accurate information more »

The Fix: Repairing Kaigara Danmen Zuan

In the Book Conservation Lab we sometimes treat books requiring intricate repairs. In November,  Kaigara Danmen Zuan printed in Kyoto in 1913 and authored by Yoichiro Hirase came to us for repair work. It was recently adopted through an Adopt-a-Book event hosted at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.  The book itself is from that museum’s library. Hirase was a prominent malacologist (mollusk scientist) in Japan who collected over 3,500 seashells, 1,000 of which more »

Museum In A Box

Museum in a Box  (MiaB) is the newest project that is allowing the Smithsonian Libraries to bring their artifacts and images into the hands of young students all around the nation. MiaB allows students to learn about the collections from the Smithsonian Libraries and Museums, from the comfort of their own classrooms. So what is MiaB? Well, actual artifacts from the Libraries are digitized into small, hand-held sized 3D versions and put into a kit. Not only that, but postcard prints are included as well. The kit comes with a small box, and when one of the objects or cards are placed on top of the box, a story automatically comes out of a speakers explaining its history. Pretty cool right? MiaB simulates an actual experience at the Smithsonian Libraries. This allows schools that may not be able to travel to the Smithsonian to rent the kit for a short amount of time for their students. The creators of MiaB are a small team based in London and Liverpool, England,  more »

New “World’s Fairs” Collection in our Digital Library

Explore one of our newest collections in our digital library containing books, catalogs and ephemera from 19th and 20th century World’s Fairs and Expositions. The majority of the items in this collection were digitized by an outside vendor as part of a special project. Pieces in this collection date from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s, highlighting experiences from different fairs that took place all over the world, from America to Europe and more »

Curing an Obsession: Dating a Manuscript on Hydrodynamics

Obsession is a tricky word. Any bibliophile can sense it coming, when they read a new dealer description or see that perfect binding. We’re using the word in our upcoming exhibit, entitled Magnificent Obsessions, in honor of the Smithsonian Libraries 50th anniversary , to describe the incredible collections built by private individuals and donated to the institution. The passion and sweat equity put into building these collections lives on as researchers and more »

Painted Backgrounds for Turn of the Century Photographers

They’re all over social media – frames, filters, and special camera effects on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms to help you add pizzazz to your selfies and other photos. But is anything really new these days? We found something that may be the grandfather (or at least great uncle) of social media filters – hand-painted backgrounds for photography studios dating from the early 1900s.

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