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Friday, June 1 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
(Natural History Collections) Smudges, snakeskins, and pins, oh my!

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The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA), and Smithsonian Institution Libraries have collaborated since 2010 on the Field Book Project, involving cataloging, preservation survey and assessment, conservation treatment, digitization and creation of an innovative crowd-sourced Transcription Center in order to make widely available our vulnerable, unique, scientific manuscript and other archival documentation held in a variety of contexts within our collections and research departments. The physical nature of field books at the Smithsonian varies widely in their size, media, format, and orientation over almost two centuries of scientific record keeping, making for a fascinating overview of structures (commercial and ad-hoc), styles, and secret surprises found in these sometimes intimate journals. Catalogers, collection managers, and volunteers from all over the world have reacted to and realized that these records, besides supporting original location evidence of a natural specimen collected, often hold much more unique contextual content. These include visual observations of color and behavior, hand-drawn maps, and notes on environmental conditions that may fill out missing data in the environmental record. Beyond their original purpose, the authors’ entries also reflect humanity via the occasional tasty recipe, remarks upon life in the field, and also bear witness to societal and political changes, the stresses of which sometimes become remarkably poignant through observable changes in handwriting and care taken in writing personal correspondence. This presentation will review guidelines and best practices that SIA has preferred for stabilizing, preparing, and conserving our original field books prior to and after digitization. Key to the core concept of connecting collections, special care is taken to identify and preserve in-situ inclusions (such as the eponymous moulted snakeskin) and other physical evidence that can be further linked to accessioned specimens. While low-tech minimal preservation actions can allow the collections manager to preserve these with a minimum of fuss, at times, the materiality of a field book can interfere with access, or cause great risk to the content, such that disbinding may be considered. Reversing vigorous prior interventions has been an especial challenge, where we advocate for the productive application of the sewn-boards binding as a useful tool in the archive and library conservator’s kit as an excellent option for conservation rebinding (see also Poster Sessions - Application of the Sewn Boards Binding for Field Books and Pocket Journals).

avatar for R William Bennett III

R William Bennett III

Conservator, Smithsonian Institution Archives
William Bennett is the Conservation Specialist for the Smithsonian Institution Archives. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the West Dean College graduate program in Book Conservation, and previously worked in Collections Care at the Library of Congress. He is an AIC... Read More →
avatar for Nora Lockshin-[PA]

Nora Lockshin-[PA]

Head, Preservation and Collections Care, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Nora Lockshin is Senior Paper Conservator for the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ Conservation Lab. She provides treatment, guidance, research, training and advocacy for caregivers of collections, including the Smithsonian Archives, its allied archival units and special collections... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:30pm - 5:00pm MDT
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston