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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Waldo Schmitt, Smithsonian-Bredin Society Expedition
The Field Book Project is an initiative to increase accessibility to field book content that documents natural history.
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What is a field book?

Field books or field notes are primary source documents that describe the events leading up to and including the collection of specimens or observations during field research. Field notes can take many forms depending on the information needs of the collector.

Importance and challenges of field books

Field notes are significant sources of information related to scientific discovery. They provide rich data for researchers to understand how biodiversity has changed over time and space. They enhance information associated with specimens by providing details regarding dates, localities (for geo-referencing), and associated event data. For example, field diary entries may describe habitats, meteorological events, personal observations, and emotional declarations. These additional data allow us to assess the intrinsic value of specimens, as well as use information in new ways: reconstructing historical ecologies, clarifying specimen's provenance, and re-discovering localities.

Field books as an object type are located and described in a wide variety of ways. They can be found in rare book collections, libraries, archives, and museum departments. Field book descriptions can range from brief folder level descriptions in finding aids to having no descriptions at all.

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