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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History



Ray and Lavallee with Weddell seals at the Palmer Peninsula, Antarctica

In 2010, the Field Book Project began as a joint initiative between the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) to create one online location for scholars and others to visit when searching for field books and other field research materials. Initially funded by the Council for Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and led by co-investigators Rusty Russell and Anne Van Camp, the Project began to catalog field books in participating departments across the Smithsonian. Since then, the Project has cataloged more than 7,200 field books across 8 departments and divisions of the Smithsonian.  Field book catalog records were made available to the public for the first time in December 2012 on Smithsonian’s Collection Search Center.  

Over the course of the grant period, NMNH and SIA worked together to acquire additional funding to support the conservation and digital imaging of the field books to further enhance access.  Grants from Save America’s Treasures and the Smithsonian Women’s Committee supported conservation and digitization staff and interns.  As a result, the cataloged field books have been assessed by conservation staff, which has enabled ongoing conservation and digitization.  Currently 440 digitized field books are now available online, with more being added when complete. 

Although these grants have concluded, the Field Book Project continues to make significant strides towards improving online access to scientists’ field notes. The Project has begun contributing catalog records and digitized content to online repositories like Digital Public Library. Ongoing collaboration with Biodiversity Heritage Library will soon result in digital field books being searchable alongside scientific publications from the same collectors.  In addition to the thousands of cataloged records, the Field Book Project maintains an active social media presence on twitter and it’s project blog.

Participation in the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center has also fostered excitement about these materials and created new opportunities for using field books as the content becomes increasingly text searchable.  As more field books are transcribed, information within them can be utilized in new ways: reconstructing historical ecologies, clarifying specimen’s provenance, and re-discovering localities.  To learn more about what the Field Book Project is up to, visit the Field Book Project or follow us on Twitter.

Logo courtesy of Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)Logo courtesy of Save America's TreasuresLogo courtesy of Smithsonian Women's Committee

Website Credits

Templates for this website were created by the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) IT Department. Members of the Field Book Project, NMNH, and Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) contribute content to this website.

Lesley Parilla: Field Book Project logo

Lesley Parilla: Webmaster


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