Smithsonian Libraries staff presentations

Smithsonian Libraries staffers regularly speak at meetings and conferences. Expert staff talk on many aspects of the work done at Smithsonian Libraries. A small sampling of such presentations are now available on SlideShare in the "Smithsonian Libraries" group. Stay tuned for more to come.—Martin Kalfatovic The Biodiversity Heritage Library Mass Digitizing Project: A Grandeur in this View of Digital Libraries View more presentations from Martin Kalfatovic. (tags: bhl biodiversity heritage li…)

Orchids Through Darwin’s Eyes Exhibit at NMNH

For this year’s annual orchid exhibit, which celebrates Charles Darwin’s 200th Birthday, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL) has played a small, but pivotal role.  In the middle of the exhibit room, you will find a beautifully displayed first edition of Darwin’s book, On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilized by insects and on the good effects of intercrossing published in 1862.  It is bound in a plum cloth with an orchid gilt on the front cover.  You’ll also find quotes from this book on several of the interpretation panels. In this book, he describes the relationships between orchids and the insects that fertilized them.  The observations Darwin made by studying orchids and their pollinators, gave support to the theory of natural selection that he describes in his more famous book “On the Origins of Species”.  “Fertilization of Orchids” was praised at the time by his contemporaries in natural history and botany.  However, initially, the book was not a bestseller, selling only six thousand copies by more »

Research Bibliography Data Re-used by Museum Departments

The Smithsonian Research Bibliography has collected citations for over 1600 Smithsonian-authored publications during the 2008 calendar year. Smithsonian Institution Library staff collect and edit this publication data which is of value to several audiences within the Institution including administration at different levels. For this reason it makes sense to re-use the information wherever possible to avoid a duplication of effort in collecting and editing the references. In recent months several museum departments in the Museum of Natural History have begun re-using this centrally-collected data to dynamically create publication lists for curator web pages. In addition, many of the citations listed on individual curator pages are hyper-linked to the corresponding full text of the publication if it is available in the Smithsonian Digital Repository. To see an example this data re-use, look at the staff publication lists for NMNH curators, Storrs Olson or Mark Littler . The bottom portion of each page contains a list of recent publications which is updated in real-time as the master Research Bibliography is updated. It more »

Peter S. Pallas and His Curious Cats

The scientific names assigned to animals often have intriguing origins, which can be revealed by books in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ collections. The Pallas’s Cat of central Asia, for instance, is named after German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811), the first person to publish a detailed description of the animal. Although he was not fully aware that the curious creatures he had seen during his travels were a new species, Pallas’s account and his accompanying illustration were definitive enough to establish the foundation for the scientific record. Pallas spent much of his life in Russia, where he conducted expeditions in search of new and unusual animals and plants. In his account, Travels through the southern provinces of the Russian Empire in the years 1793 and 1794 (originally published in German in 1799-1801), he speculated that the mysterious felines known today as the Pallas’s Cat (Felis manul) were the half-wild offspring of a local nobleman’s pet:

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays in 2008! All through 2008, the Smithsonian Libraries has been celebrating the 40th (Ruby) anniversary of the year (1968) that Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley created the Smithsonian Institution Libraries as a separate unit with a central administration and Director. We had a party for our Smithsonian friends and colleagues in April, and Acting Secretary Cristián Samper gave us $40,000 for acquisitions, a dollar for every year.  We held a symposium about 18th century naturalist Mark Catesby with the Washington premier of the film “The Curious Mr. Catesby,” which you may see on your local PBS station in the coming year.  With Smithsonian colleagues, we sponsored a speaker series that brought thinkers and experts from outside the Institution to talk about their views of the future of libraries, archives, and museums. We engaged a consultant to lead us through a strategic planning process that will start us off well for our next 40 years!  On October 30, we hosted our Ruby Anniversary Gala, “Paint the Town REaD!” to more »

Clay Shirky Lecture Postponed

Today's scheduled lecture by Clay Shirky in NMNH's Kerby Room will be postponed due to a family emergency. We apologize for the inconvenience and will announce a new date and time shortly.

The Art of African Exploration

In the town of Ujiji in what is now Tanzania, Henry Morton Stanley, sent by a New York newspaper to track down the missing Dr. David Livingstone, finally found the man on this day, November 10, in 1871. Many had believed the ailing missionary and explorer to be dead.  Their meeting has become legendary – even in its day it was the focus of media attention.  African exploration was a hot topic in the Victorian era in both the U.S. and Britain, capitivating the public’s imagination with tales of adventure and discovery and paving the way for the West’s colonialist claims on the continent.  In a forthcoming SI Libraries exhibition, set to open December 9th at the National Museum of Natural History, African exploration is examined using an array of visual materials that emerged from that critical and complex time.  All but a few of the items on display come from the Russell E. Train Africana Collection (kept in the Cullman Library), a collection rich in illustrated and original materials.  Included in the exhibit are more »

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