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~ Archive for Exhibits ~

Visit from Biology Institute at Exeter


On June 24th, 2015, the library welcomed high school biology teachers from across the United States. Hosted by OEB Prof. Scott Edwards, teachers attending the Biology Institute at Exeter explored the Museum of Comparative Zoology’s Ornithology Collection, the Ernst Mayr Library and the Harvard Museum of Natural History.


Robert Young, Special Collections Librarian, created an exhibit for them in the Special Collections reading room, featuring zoological works from the 18th and 19th centuries. An unexpected treat for the visitors was being allowed to turn the pages! Among many questions asked was: “What is the oldest book in the library?” Answer: Albertus Magnus, De animalibus libri xxvi, Mantua, 1479.   For more information on the exhibit contact


Seba, Albertus (1665-1736). Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio… vol. 1 (out of 4 v.), 1734-1765.


Nozeman, Cornelius (1721-1785?). Nederlandsche vogelen; vogens hunne huishouding aert… vol. 4 (out of 5 v.), 1770-1829.


Rothschild, Lionel Walter (1868-1937). The avifauna of Laysan and the neighboring islands… (3 v. in 2.) 1893-1900.


Malherbe, Alf. (d. 1866). Monographie des picidées ou Histoire naturelle des picidés, picumninés… v. 4, plates (out of 4) 1861-1862.

Field Notes and Cockroaches


Field Notes from the Ernst Mayr Library collection.

Last week there were a couple of events in the Ernst Mayr Library. On Thursday we were visited by about a dozen attendees from the “Take Note” conference held at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. This conference brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines to explore the role of note-taking in different disciplines. The conference also launched a virtual exhibition entitled “An Exploration of Note-Taking in Harvard University Collections“. There was also discussion and review of emerging digital annotation tools.

The students and scholars who visited the Ernst Mayr Library were treated to a lecture and note-taking session organized by Michael Canfield. Additionally they viewed biologists’ field notes from the 19th and early 20th century. The display included one of John James Audubon’s notebooks–mostly text, field notes from Louis Agassiz coupled with illustrations by his travelling artist, Jacques Burkhardt, a psychiatrist’s bird watching lists,sketches and notes along with field notes and analytic compilations from William Brewster, Curator at the MCZ from 1885 to 1902. Connie Rinaldo gave a brief presentation about the Biodiversity Heritage Library partner IMLS grant Connecting Content: A Collaboration to Link Field Notes to Specimens and Published Literature to which the Ernst Mayr Library is contributing digitzed versions of Brewster’s field notes, diaries, photographs and correspondence along with MCZ specimen images from Brewster’s collection of birds from Cambridge, MA.

Pages from Audubon’s field notes (1840-1842)

Agassiz’s notes on Brazilian Fish, 1865 or 1866 along with Burkhardt illustration.

So what about the cockroaches? The library pets, hissing cockroaches, have new and more spacious digs so we thought it was a great time to show them off along with some books from the amazing collections of the Ernst Mayr Library. Since the field notes were already on display, we added some books with cockroach images and announced a Friday afternoon “flash” exhibit complete with snacks. We know some folks were unable to attend and were disappointed, so feel free to ask for a tour, either private or for your lab. Check with Connie Rinaldo, Dana Fisher or Mary Sears.

Checking out the Hissing Cockroaches.

Fish Treasures of the Ernst Mayr Library


“Fish Treasures of the Ernst Mayr Library”

Recently installed in the library was this exhibition showcasing a selection of ichthyological drawings, engravings and manuscripts from Special Collections.  Most famous at the MCZ due to their having been digitized and reproduced in books examining the Thayer Expedition to Brazil (1865-1866) are the watercolors of Jacques Burkhardt, Louis Agassiz’s personal artist whose Brazil work was the highlight of his brief but increasingly respected career.  More information can be found here.

Another fish artist and collector who sought out a connection with the MCZ was Andrew Garrett (1823-1887), a Hawaii sailor who collected thousands of shell and fish specimens and in 1855 wrote to Louis Agassiz offering to supply the Museum with specimens and watercolors.  Some of those drawings in the current exhibit are accompanied by Garrett’s manuscript notes about the specimens.

Also included are early 1830s manuscript drawings by Joseph Dinkel, another artist collaborator of Louis Agassiz’s; a fossil-fish engraving from Agassiz’s Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles (Neuchatel, 1833-1843); a color plate of a piranha in Marcus Bloch’s Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische (Berlin, 1782-1795); a Clearnose skate engraving in Samuel Garman’s The Plagiostomia : Sharks, Skates, and Rays (Cambridge, Mass., 1913); a brown trout engraving from a Joseph Dinkel drawing in Louis Agassiz’s Histoire Naturelle des Poissons d’Eau Douce de l’Europe Centrale (Neuchatel, 1839-1845); a color plate in James Carson Brevoort’s Notes on Some Figures of Japanese Fish, Taken from Recent Specimens by the Artists of the U.S. Japan Expedition (Washington, D.C., 1856); and anatomical fish illustrations for the scientific papers of Edward Phelps Allis (1911), many of which were discovered in the MCZ’s Romer Library in 1979, as chronicled by Professor George V. Lauder in Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 16 (1981). Professor Lauder, students and museum staff enjoyed refreshments after viewing treasures from the library collections.




BHL Europe


Recently  I travelled to Berlin, Germany to attend the final meeting of BHL Europe, which reached the end of its initial funding stream on April 30, 2012, and the Third Global BHL meeting (another post to come).  The BHL Europe project has come a long way and the international audience received a glimpse of the hard work that went into producing a Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe.  Why is this important?  Check out the Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe video.

Scientists have told us how important the Biodiversity Heritage Library is to their work–making information gathering so much easier and reducing the time it takes for them to complete their work.

The BHL Europe portal that is under development has some very impressive options.  I particularly like the book viewer, which can be seen here.  The BHL Europe portal also adds some features that would be nice to add to the current BHL portal like searching (and finding!) monographs, serials AND articles: view portal .  The taxonomic names feature, so important to BHL users, is also available in the BHL Europe portal.  The most impressive and exciting addition to BHL Europe is the Exhibition page.  Currently, there are exhibits about spices and expeditions.  Future exhibitions include poisonous creatures and the development of scientific illustration. The BHL Europe’s collaboration with Europeana offers new ways to explore biodiversity-related data, including items not found in BHL such as photographs and cultural heritage objects.

And one of the highlights of the meeting was the reception in the Museum fur Naturkunde, enjoyed by all of us.  I feel privileged to work with these colleagues from many institutions all over the world.  Thank you to Henning and Anne-Marie Scholz for organizing this meeting to celebrate the success of the Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe.  May the collaborations continue to evolve.



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