Deirdre Moore, a graduate student in Harvard’s History of Science Department, spent the summer of 2015 working with the Ernst Mayr Library’s lantern slide collection. Harvard entomologists William Morton Wheeler (1865-1937), Charles T. Brues (1879-1955) , Frank M. Carpenter(1902-1994) and Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus Edward O. Wilson (1929- ) were primary contributors of the images. Because of the research interests of the contributors, many of the images were of ants, fossil ants, and illustrations of biogeography such as island landscapes. Support for the project was generously provided by the Harvard Library Pforzheimer Fellowship program.
Before the project began, the number of lantern slides was estimated to be 1800, with several hundred additional photographic slides and transparencies. In spring 2015, more lantern slides were transferred from the Entomology Dept. of the Museum of Comparative Zoology to the Library, bringing the total to nearly 3000. Under the direction of librarians Robert Young and Joseph DeVeer, Moore has recorded data from 2885 lantern slides into spreadsheets, transcribing the text on them and identifying the contributor, location and date as possible. Handling such a large number of objects, Moore became very familiar with Wheeler’s handwriting, among others. In addition to cataloging, Moore cleaned over 1000 slides, and housed approximately 800 in numbered envelopes. Library staff will produce a finding aid for the collection based on her work.
For the scholarly context of the slides, Moore consulted with faculty and staff in the Entomology Dept., which led to the discovery of significant correspondence and other archival materials. Entomologist Philip Darlington (1904-1983) was in Colombia in 1928-29 during the “Banana Massacre”. Aware of the violence and fires being set locally, Darlington buried his notes and slides underground, so that his materials are some of the only surviving records of that era. Present day militias such as the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) are seen as a legacy of the brutal response of the Colombian military to the banana growers’ labor dispute with United Fruit in 1928.
Deirdre Moore was an ideal fit to work with the MCZ collections. A graduate of Kings College and Dalhousie University, Moore’s research interests concern the relationship of insects and cultures. Moore entered her 6th year of graduate study in September, and will continue her collaborations with Harvard libraries. In the 2015-16 academic year, she will be a Tyler Fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library in Washington, DC, where she will examine the insect-related materials in their collection and construct a pollinator garden on the grounds.