It’s National Handwriting Day! The Smithsonian Field Book Project, a joint initiative between the Smithsonian Libraries, Smithsonian Institution Archives, and National Museum of Natural History to uncover, catalog, digitize, and share online the primary source records of scientific research done at, by, and for the Institution, celebrates this day with a showcase of some of the handwriting samples encountered during the project work. The Project works with materials stretching back almost 200 years, to 1816, and therefore often runs across examples of both very good and very bad handwriting.
This post was written by Julia Blase, Field Book Project Manager. It first appeared on the Field Books Project Blog here.
Recently, I sat down to scan two diaries of Bohumil Shimek, a botanist, zoologist, and geologist of Czech descent whose field books came to the Smithsonian along with his extensive collection of specimens after his death in 1937. He is well-known for his long career and extensive study of the geology and ecology of the American prairies, particularly in his home state, Iowa, though he is also remembered as a champion of education and a supporter of Czechoslovakian independence . In fact, his travels to Europe in 1914, initiated by his invitation to visit the Charles University of Prague, Bohemia, as exchange professor in Botany in 1914, are what led to the two remarkable items I scanned as part of the Field Book Project. Our cataloger, Lesley Parilla, wrote a piece about these items almost a year ago, because they are indeed striking. The volumes capture Shimek’s first impressions of the unfolding of the beginning of World War I:
John Kerr Tiffany (1842-1897) of St. Louis, Missouri is considered one of the earliest stamp collectors (known as philatelists) in the United States and belongs to the American Philatelic Society’s Hall of Fame. Tiffany was also the first president of the society in 1886 and was re-elected the following ten years, until he decided to stop running. In addition to having been an avid stamp collector, Tiffany created one of the largest library’s on the topic of stamps during his era, along with publishing books, catalogs and indexes on the topic. The National Postal Museum Library contains a manuscript copy from 1880-81 of Tiffany’s Philatelic Index.
While the official US involvement in World War I (WWI) did not occur until April of 1917, unofficially the US volunteered military services as part of a squadron known as the Escadrille Lafayette or Escadrille Americaine, as part of the French Air Service.
Are you itching to contribute to the wealth of knowledge at the Smithsonian? Well, now you can from the comfort of your own home (or local coffee shop or library or bus station . . .). The Smithsonian Institution is recruiting “virtual volunteers” to help unlock some of the mysteries in our collection through the Transcription Center.