Ernst Mayr Library

Transcription Tools: a survey by Katie Mika, NDSR Resident

Field notebooks and diaries have historically been retained by natural history institutions as reference files for museum specimen and associated collecting events. More recently, however, researchers have begun to uncover vast historical data sets as part of their scholarship in scientific taxonomy, species distribution and occurrences, climate change studies, and history of science. Field notebooks contain significant information related to scientific discovery and are rich sources for data that describes biodiversity across space and time. They enhance our understanding of field...

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MCZ Archives Collection Chosen for Harvard University Library's Colonial North American Project

The Ernst Mayr Library's Collection of Historical Manuscripts has been chosen to be included in the Colonial North American Project, a multi-year Harvard University Library project "funded by Arcadia to survey, process/catalog, conserve, digitize," and make accessible "all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate...

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Notes from William Brewster: Trials in Wildlife Photography

This post is part of a series on the collection of ornithologist William Brewster (1851-1919) at the Ernst Mayr Library, written by Elizabeth Meyer, Library Project Assistant.

In the mid-1890s, Brewster’s journals increasingly reference using new methods of data collection. Though he continued to collect specimens on a smaller scale, with focus shifted from birds to their nests and eggs, his journals show that he began to use his gun more for securing dinner than for data collection. He started to bring field glasses (binoculars) and a boxy Kodak camera on his excursions.

Setting up photographs in the field was challenging. Sometimes a bit of prep work helped, such as thinning the foliage in backcountry areas: “I spent the day ashore taking a walk through the wood road in the forenoon with camera & hatchet selecting & cutting out spots for photographing later.” (Sunshine, Deer Island, Maine. June 26, 1896.)

Opportunistic shots of live animals were even trickier, but once in a while he managed to get some good shots. 

Porcupine

Sepia-toned photo of a porcupine on a tree branch.

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Notes from William Brewster: Summer Thrushes

This post is part of a series on the collection of ornithologist William Brewster (1851-1919) at the Ernst Mayr Library, written by Elizabeth Meyer, library project assistant.

William Brewster’s summertime journals are filled with birdsong: he noted which species were singing, when, and, to the best of his ability, what those songs sounded like. This left us some beautiful nature writing that also provides some insight on the scientist's emotional connection to his work and study sites. Here are two passages...

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Digging into the personal writings of a 19th century ornithologist

This post is part of a series on the collection of ornithologist William Brewster (1851-1919) at the Ernst Mayr Library, written by Elizabeth Meyer, Library Project Assistant. It is also published on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog.

Tuesday, June 12, 1866 
A.M. pleasant P.M. cloudy. Studied part of P.M. Went to circus in evening & saw a...

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BHL Update - June 2016

As of the end of June, 2016, the Ernst Mayr Library has digitized and contributed over 9300 volumes (3,162,725 pages) to the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). Contained within these pages are 11,966,599 instances of indexed species names. Since the first volumes were uploaded to BHL in December, 2007, Ernst Mayr Library items have been accessed a total of 7,040,287 times. Monthly usage now consistently exceeds 100,000 downloads with June, 2016 showing a total of 171,499...

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Notes from William Brewster: Ornithologists in the Courtroom

In March 1886, one deacade before the Massachusetts Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds had organized, William Brewster wrote three letters to fellow ornithologist George Sennett, describing an early attempt to pass bird protection legislation in Massachusetts.

Brewster, who would become the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s first president and a co-founder of the American...

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Notes from William Brewster: American Robin

“It is sunset and as I sit in my study in the Museum a Robin is singing in an elm in the garden. What a hopeful, earnest strain! It always cheers and encourages me. Our Robin must have a brave heart and a pure conscience.”

– William Brewster, in correspondence to his friend, ornithologist Frank Michler Chapman. March 26, 1893. Cambridge, Mass.

William Brewster (1851-1919) grew up in a Cambridge of...

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