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Head Ornament With Beads

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
FROM CARD: "OBTAINED BY INNUIT FROM DR. RAE. INVENTORIED 1974." FROM CARD: "NECKLACE.--BAND OF TANNED SEALSKIN, 1/2 INCH BROAD AND 18 INCHES LONG, TO WHICH ARE PENDANT TEETH OF THE ARCTIC FOX, VULPES LAGOPUS, BY MEANS OF THREADS OF SINEW AND STRINGS OF BLUE AND WHITE BEADS; TEETH PIERCED WITH HOLES AT ROOT. THE BEADS ARE SOME OBTAINED BY THE INNUITS FROM DR. RAE. THE NECKLACE WAS WORN BY THE ESKINMO OF PELLY BAY. KING WILLISM'S LAND, 1870. 10,410. COLLECTED BY CAPT. CHAS. F. HALL."

1840 - 1860 Catherine Byer's Pieced and Appliqued Quilt

National Museum of American History
A stamped inscription of leaves and a bird frame the names: “Eby Byers & Catherine Byers” and the place, “Chambersburg.” Below Chambersburg is noted "1837," in a penned ink inscription ---possibly a later addition? Did Catherine make this quilt?

Catherine Byers, born in 1805, was the daughter of Frederick Byers and Anna Eby of Pennsylvania. Catherine married James Crawford (1799-1872) in 1826. They raised their children and lived on the family homestead in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Catherine died in 1892. Both came from families who were early settlers of Pennsylvania, some of whom had fought in the Revolutionary War.

Thirty-six pieced blocks, each with a center square of dark blue printed cotton and three appliquéd leaves at each corner create a unique pattern. The central focus is the 9 ¾-inch-block with the inked drawing and inscription. The quilt is framed by a 6-inch border and is quilted at 10 stitches per inch. As no information was included with the quilt, it is difficult to know who made the quilt and the significance of the date.

How Do Animals Find Food? The Answer's in Their Eyes

Smithsonian Magazine

How do animals find their food? Clues are as close as an animal's eyes, as Claire Maldarelli writes for Popular Science. Pupil shape provides differing advantages to those who crave the hunt and those who hide, scientists suggest in a study published August 7 in Science Advances.

Pupil shape varies across the animal kingdom, Maldarelli explains. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that goats have horizontal pupils and domestic cats have vertical ones — but why do they vary in the first place?

Vertical slit pupils — like those sported by cats and geckos — might provide the optimal shape to dilate for use at night. But that hypothesis only explains half the story. 

Researchers at UC Berkeley and Durham University in the U.K. compared pupil size across 214 species. Most animals (cats, foxes and snakes) with vertical pupils acted as ambush predators, sneaking up on their prey day and night. In contrast, animals with horizontal pupils tended to be grazing animals like horses and sheep — prey to predators with vertically-slitted eyes.

The team simulated how each of these eye types might see in the wild and learned more about what their advantages might be. Stretching pupils horizontally allows more light to enter the eye from the sides, so grazers can better spot attackers in the periphery. Even when horses and goats bend their heads down, their pupils rotate to stay parallel to the ground, researchers observed.

Predators, on the other hand, need a more acute sense of distance to better execute a pounce on their prey, writes Sarah Schwartz for Science News. Through vertical pupils, horizontal things show up blurry (or at least blurrier than vertical things). But blur can help animals estimate distance, and that helps the eye focus on the target as well — perfect for low predators that need to track prey that's also close to the ground.

(Lions and tigers flout the rule, though. Because of their higher vantage point, they're served better by round pupils, like those of humans and dogs.)

Though many factors can influence the evolution of an animal’s eye, it turns out there are plenty of lenses — and pupils — through which to view the world.

Animal Specimens, From Fish to Birds to Mammals, Get Inked

Smithsonian Magazine

Horseshoe crab. Image by Adam Cohen and Ben Labay.

Adam Cohen and Ben Labay are surrounded by thousands of fish specimens, all preserved in jars of alcohol and formalin. At the Texas Natural Science Center at the University of Texas in Austin, the two fish biologists are charged with documenting the occurrences of different freshwater fish species in their home state and those neighboring it.

That is their day job, at least.

Outside of work, Cohen and Labay have teamed up on an artistic venture they call the Inked Animal Project. Since 2008, the colleagues have made surprisingly tasteful prints of actual animal carcasses—scales, fur, feathers and all.

Both scientists have dabbled in art—drawing, painting and sculpting—for as long as they can remember. As a kid, Cohen even used an octopus and flying fish that he bought at an Asian market as huge stamps to make ink patterns on paper. Fish, of course, were a natural subject for two ichthyologists, but Cohen and Labay were also familiar with a Japanese art form called Gyotaku (meaning “fish rubbing”), where artists slather ink on fresh fish and press them onto paper as a means of recording the size and other details of the catch.

Their first collaboration was a poster with prints of all ten sunfish species that live in Texas, and the Inked Animal Project was born. They inked trout, bass and catfish. But why stop with fish? The duo quickly expanded its repertoire, applying the same printmaking technique to mice, squirrels, rabbits, geese, gulls, hummingbirds and a smattering of deer, pig and cow skulls. No specimen seems to fluster the artists.

I interviewed Inked Animal’s creators by email to learn more about where they obtain their portrait subjects, how they produce the prints and what exactly possesses them to do this.

Bantom sunflsh (Lepomis symmetricus). Image by Adam Cohen and Ben Labay.

As you know, Gyotaku is both an art form and a method of scientific documentation. Are there certain anatomical traits you try to accentuate in your Inked Animal prints for scientific purposes?

Ben: I don’t think we print for any tangible scientific goal, though we do print in a spirit of documentation, similar to goals of the original Gyotaku printings I guess. As we’ve expanded our medium beyond fish, we’ve been interested in trying to document life processes through the animals, such as internal or unique anatomy and “road-kill” or animated postures.

Adam: Not long ago I ran across some field notes belonging to a fish collector from the late 1800s, Edgar Mearns, who, rather than preserving a particularly large fish, decided to trace the animal on paper and insert it in his fieldbook. We were well into the Inked Animal Project at that point and that‘s when I realized what we were really doing was a form of documentation as well as art. But, in reality, these days with cameras so ubiquitous, there is little need to print or trace the animal on paper for documentation purposes. I think our prints have relatively little scientific value, but substantial artistic value. I often think about the physical characteristics that someone who knows the species well would need to see to verify the identity of the specimen, but I try not to let that get in the way of creating interesting art. I’d much rather have interesting art of an unknown and unverifiable species.

Wild pig (Sus scrofa). Image by Adam Cohen and Ben Labay.

How do you collect the animals you print?

Adam and Ben: We get the animals in all sorts of ways. In the beginning we went fishing in our spare time. Recently, as word of our project got out, we’ve had people donate specimens. A lot of our friends are biologists, hunters, exterminators and people who work in animal rehabilitation; they have access to animals and are excited to donate to the cause. Additionally, there are a lot of great animals to print that can be purchased through exotic Asian grocery stores. We’re getting serious about printing larger animals, like farm livestock. We would love to get an ostrich or emu too.

Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus). Image by Adam Cohen and Ben Labay.

On your website, you say, “Our tolerance for gross is very high.” Can you give an example of a specimen that pushed this tolerance to its limits?

Ben: My personal worst was the armadillo. We’ve had worse-smelling animals like a gray fox that was sitting in a bucket for a full day before we printed. But something about working with the armadillo really grossed me out, almost to the point of vomiting. Most mammals are squishy with decay, but the armadillo was a stiff football of dense rotten meat. It’s also a bizarre animal that we don’t ever expect to get so intimate with. This is just a crazy theory, but animals like the Eastern cottontail or gray fox are more familiar, and maybe more approachable or acceptable when rotten. When it comes to larger, strictly wild animals, things get more interesting and intense.

Adam: Ben mentioned a gray fox that we printed in the early days of Inked Animal. I remember picking it up and the juices ran down my arm. But I was so excited by the print we were getting, which I think was the first time we realized that we were on to something really unique, that I hardly even thought about it. We recently printed a very rotten deer whose skin peeled away as we lifted the cloth to reveal a writhing mass of maggots—that was pretty gross too.

Northern shoveler (Anas clypeata). Image by Adam Cohen and Ben Labay.

You are almost more interested in prints of dismembered, rotting or partially dissected specimens, right? Why is this?

Ben: When we started to expand from fish to other types of animals, Adam and I felt excited about not just doing something unique, but doing art that was deeper than just a pretty picture. I think we both feel that there is something indescribable about the animal prints, which allows people to view them from different vantage points. You see it as an animal print, and also as a process. I like the idea of documenting rotting or dissected animals because it emphasizes the process part of the experience. People see it and can immediately imagine what must have happened to produce the image. Most people love what they see even though it’s something, which if seen in real life, would disgust and repulse them.

Adam: At first I think most people think working with animal innards to be a little gross, but really there’s lots to offer aesthetically in the inside. Ribs, lungs and guts provide very interesting patterns and textures. Blood stains and feces add color. These are the parts of the animal that are not usually seen so they catch the viewer’s attention and cause reason for pause. If, for example, the animal is a road kill specimen, whose guts are spilling out—well that’s an interesting story that we can capture on paper.

Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas). Image by Adam Cohen and Ben Labay.

Do you try to position the specimens in a certain way on the paper?

Adam and Ben: Absolutely. We think about position quite a bit. Mainly we want to capture natural poses, either making the animal seem alive or dead. Often if the animal has rigor mortis or could fall apart, due to rot, we are limited to how we can pose them. Sometimes animals come to us very disfigured, depending on the cause of death, and we’ve been surprised by the beautiful prints that can be obtained from them.

Can you take me through the process of making a print? What materials do you use, and what is your method?

Adam and Ben: We are always experimenting with different papers, fabric, inks, clays and paints as well as different application methods, but it really all boils down to applying a wet media to the animal and then applying it to paper or fabric. The trick is finding the right kinds of materials and transfer technique for each kind of specimen. The process for bones is very different than fleshed out animals; and birds are different than fish. Having two of us is often essential for large floppy animals where we want to apply the animal to the table-bound paper. Fish can be the most difficult; their outer skin is essentially slime, which repels some inks and creates smudgy prints on paper. You have to remove this outer slime layer before you print a fish. Salt seems to work well for this. We often do varying degrees of post-processing of the raw print with paint or pencils.

What do you add by hand to the actual print?

Ben: For each animal we’ll likely do half a dozen to a couple dozen prints searching for the perfect one. With all these replicates, we’ll play around with different techniques of post processing. The traditional Gyotaku method restricts touch-ups to accenting the eye of the fish. I think we’ve at minimum done this. But we’ve employed a lot of post-processing techniques, including pencil, watercolor, acrylic, clay, enamel and even extensive digital touch ups.

Adam: There is a balance that we are trying to achieve regarding preserving the rawness of the print and creating a highly refined piece. We like both and find ourselves wavering. Recently, we’ve started to assemble prints together digitally and sometimes alter colors and contrast for interesting effects.

Ring-tailed cat (Bassariscus astutus). Image by Adam Cohen and Ben Labay.

What are the most challenging specimens to print?

Adam: I think small arthropods (animals with exoskeletons) are particularly difficult and time consuming. We’ve come up with the best method, to completely disassemble the animal and print it in pieces. The other trick with them is to apply the ink very thinly and evenly. Anything with depth is also difficult and sometime impossible since the way paper and fabric drapes across the animal can result in very distorted looking prints.

Ben: Small fish or insects. Fish because they are just so small, and the details like scales and fin rays don’t come out well. And, insects because they can be so inflexible, and their exoskeletons are, for the most part, pretty darn water repellent, restricting what kinds of paints we can use.

What animal would you like to print that you haven’t yet?

Ben: Generally, I’d love to print any animal that we haven’t already printed. That said, I have a gopher in my freezer that I’m not too excited about because it will likely turn out as a hairy blob. And once you’ve done one snake, another the same size is hard to distinguish. Large animals are, of course, charismatic and impressive, but I also really enjoy the challenge of trying to capture details on smaller animals. There are some animals that do, in theory, lend themselves to printing. For example, we have a porcupine in our freezer that I’m really excited about.

Adam: I get excited about anything new really. To date, we’ve been primarily interested in working with Texas fauna, but we are excited about other possibilities as well. I especially like animals with interesting textures juxtaposed. For example, I think the more-or-less naked head and legs of an ostrich with the feathery body would be interesting and very challenging. But, beyond specific animal species, we’re now experimenting with the process of rot, a commonality of all dead animals. One project involves placing a fresh animal on paper and spray painting it at various intervals with different colors as it rots and expands. The result is an image of the animal surrounded by concentric rings that document the extent of rot through time.

Red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). Image by Adam Cohen and Ben Labay.

What do you hope viewers take away from seeing the prints?

Ben and Adam: We like to think there is something in the animal prints that captures both the spirit and the raw corporeal feel of the animal. It’s amazing to us that the art was created by using an animal as a brush so-to-speak, and that there’s even DNA left on the art itself. We hope people have a similar thought process and feeling about the work. We also hope that the project and print collection as a whole serves as a way people can better approach and appreciate the biodiversity around us.

Ben Labay will be showing works from the Inked Animal Project at his home in Austin on November 16-17 and 23-24, as part of the 12th annual East Austin Studio Tour (EAST), a free self-guided tour of the city’s creative community. Inked Animal works are represented by Art.Science.Gallery in Austin, Texas—one of the first galleries in the country to focus on science-related art.

Why are Honeybees and Skyscrapers Sweet for Each Other?

Smithsonian Magazine

hive city

Looking up into a skyscraper for bees, designed by students at the University of Buffalo (image: Hive City)

It’s been five years now since it was reported that, for the first time ever, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas. Such a dramatic demographic shift comes with inevitable consequences – some predictable, like rising housing prices and greater economic disparity, and some less so, like the rise in urban honeybee population. With growing interest in sustainability and local food production combined with news stories and documentaries about honeybee colony collapse disorder, recent changes in laws, and the growing urban population, urban beekeeping is a full-blown trend. But it’s not just about the honey. The humble honeybee is starting to play a greater role in the design of urban living.

bank of america building

The Bank of American Tower by Cook Fox architects. Somewhere in that image 100,000 bees are buzzing 51 stories above New York City (image: Cook Fox)

Bees can help maintain the green roofs that are becoming more common in big cities and thus, in some small way, contribute to a building’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, which is a metric of sustainability promoted by the United States Green Building Council based on a system of points awarded for environmentally friendly features. In Manhattan, for example, the rooftop hives atop The Bank of America Tower, a 51-story glass skyscraper in the heart of Midtown, were recently featured in The New York Times. The towers’s 6,000-sq-ft green roof is a critical element of its LEED Platinum rating –the highest possible– and is sustained in part by two hives of 100,00 honey bees.

Buildings can benefit from bees in other ways. While some urban bees help secure sustainability credentials as green roof gardeners, others are security guards. In response to a 2010 article in The Telegraph about the recurring theft of lead from the roofs of historic buildings, architect Hugh Petter described the unique counter-measure taken by one building owner in York:

“The flat roofs of this historic building are now the home of bees — this keeps the hives away from the public in urban areas, provides delicious honey for the local community and acts as a powerful disincentive for anyone minded to remove the lead.”

Petter reports that once the bees were installed, the thefts stopped. Unfortunately, according to another recent story, such apian theft deterrents might themselves become the target of thieves. Due to colony collapse disorder, honey bees are so rare that bee theft is on the rise. A problem once common to cattle ranchers on the range is now a problem for beekeepers in Brooklyn. And until someone invents a branding iron small enough for a bee, there’s no way to prove that your queen bee was stolen.

“Elevator B,” an architectural beehive designed by students at the University of Buffalo (image: Hive City)

More recently, a group of architecture students at the University of Buffalo decided that, rather than adding bees to their buildings, they would actually design buildings for bees. “Elevator B”  is a 22-ft-tall steel tower clad in hexagonal panels inspired by the natural honeycomb structure of beehives and designed to optimize environmental conditions. Bees don’t occupy the full height of the structure, just a cypress, glass-bottomed box suspended near the top. Human visitors can enter the tower through an opening at its base and look up to see the industrious insects at work while beekeepers can tend to the bees and collect their honey by lowering the box like an elevator. If the stacked boxes of the modern beehive are efficient public housing projects, this is a high-rise luxury tower. Although it should be mentioned that the bees were forcibly relocated from their colony in the boarded-up window of an abandoned building and may very well have been happier there. But such is progress. Apparently even bees aren’t exempt from eminent domain laws. Perhaps this skyscraper for bees will mark a new trend in honeybee gentrification.

The arches of Cooperativa Mataronense (image: wikimedia commons)

Architects have long been fascinated with bees. According to architectural historian Juan Antonio Ramirez architects as different as Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) and Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) drew inspiration from bees and beehives. Ramirez believes that Gaudi’s use of catenary arches in his organic, idiosyncratic designs –first represented in his Cooperativa Mataronesa  factory– were directly inspired by the form of natural beehives. He supports this claim is with the Gaudi-designed graphics that accompany the project: a flag with a bee on it and a coat-of-arms representing workers as bees – a symbol for industriousness and cooperation. Gaudi was building a hive for humans.

Mies van der Rohe’s 1921 Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Project. Codename: Honeycomb (image: wikiarquitectura)

Noted minimalist architect Mies van der Rohe (whose work has been immortalized in Lego) was less inspired by the form in which bees built than by the ideal industrial society they represented. In the aftermath of World War I, a young, perhaps slightly more radical Mies was associated with a group of writers, artists, and architects known as the Expressionists. He published designs for innovative glass high-rises –the first of their kind– in the pages of the Expressionist publication Frülicht. Such buildings, Mies wrote, “could surely be more than mere examples of our technical ability….Instead of trying to solve the new problems with old forms, we should develop the new forms from the very nature of the new problems.” One of the most famous of these early unbuilt designs is the 1921 project nicknamed “honeycomb”. In Ramirez’s view, the angular glass skyscraper is evidence that Mies wasn’t only looking into the nature of the new problems, but looking into nature itself – specifically, to bees. Mies’s youthful belief that architecture could reshape society “brings him closer to the idea of the beehive, because in the beehive we find a perfect society in a different architecture.”

This is seriously the best free picture I could find of Rosslyn Chapel. You should google it. It’s really beautiful and the stone beehives are cool. (image: wikimedia commons)

Architecture’s relationship with bees predates green roof hives, Mies, and even Gaudi. As evidenced by a recent discovery at Rosslyn Chapel, perhaps best known as the climactic location of The Da Vinci Code, precedent for bee-influenced architecture can be traced back to the 15th century. While renovation the chapel a few years ago, builders discovered two stone beehives carved into the building as a form of architectural ornament. There’s just a small entry for bees through an ornamental stone flower and, surprisingly, no means to collect honey. Appropriately, the church is simply a sanctuary for bees. Una Robertson, historian of the Scottish Beekeepers Association told The Times that “Bees do go into roof spaces and set up home, and can stay there a long time, but it’s unusual to want to attract bees into a building…Bees have been kept in all sorts of containers , but I have never heard of stone.” Maybe the 600-year-old stone hive should be a model for urban farmers and green architects everywhere. Instead of adding a beehive to your building, why not design one into it?

Unfortunately, much like the urbanization of the world’s population, urban beekeeping might not be sustainable. Overpopulation and limited resources is a problem for every species. In Europe at least, cities such as London, where there are are 25 beehives per square mile, just don’t have enough flowers to support the rising urban bee population. Perhaps urban bees will ultimately suffer the same inevitable fate as humans: replacement by robot.

Sneaky 1960s rabies prevention inventions

National Museum of American History

Antibodies are always looking out for us, and this week we're taking a closer look at them. Antibody-based tests, vaccines, and drugs have dramatically influenced American history, culture, and quality of life. Smallpox, polio, and syphilis, once constant threats, are now distant memories for many, and recent antibody-based therapies continue to further the human battle against disease. Read our Antibodies Week posts on pregnancy testsan-tee-bodies t-shirts, plague, and healthy hogs

Anyone who endured a terrifying childhood screening of Old Yeller can testify that the ghastly symptoms of rabies, as well as its transmission via the bite of an infected animal, make rabies a particularly feared and fabled disease. Vaccines have ensured that the symptoms of many infectious diseases are unfamiliar to Americans—we might have heard about the symptoms, but we can't really picture what it would be like to suffer them. That is not the case for rabies.

Illustrated poster with red and black text: "The fox can transmit rabies." Illustrated image of a red/orange fox with bared teeth on a fallen log. Trees and leaves.
 
Rabies is a viral disease that infects the nervous system. It is transmitted through saliva, as well as brain and nervous system tissue. At first, an infected victim might experience malaise, and a slight tingling at the site of the bite wound. But soon, the virus infects the brain, eventually causing hallucinations, severe agitation, strange or violent behavior, and hydrophobia—the fear of and inability to drink water—coupled with extreme thirst. The manifestation of these later symptoms indicates that it is probably too late to begin successful treatment, and the victim will almost surely die. Rabies is a horrific disease for any animal to suffer.
 
Rectangular cardboard box labeled "Rabies Vaccine (Duck Embryo)" in a printed label. It is half open. Inside, vials with liquid are visible.

Happily, we now have very effective vaccines that prevent rabies in humans and other animals. Even if you are bitten by a non-vaccinated, rabid animal, quick administration of antibody-based therapies can now save your life. There is no reason that anyone, canine or human, has to die from rabies. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year more than 50,000 people worldwide die from rabies. Why?

Human vaccination and post-bite treatment for rabies is expensive and complex. The best strategy for rabies prevention is to vaccinate the wild and pet animal populations that transmit rabies. But how do we vaccinate wild animals?

One possibility is that we don't vaccinate them . . . we let them vaccinate themselves.

In the United States, wild animal populations, such as foxes, bats, and raccoons, are the most common carriers of the rabies virus. During the 1960s, investigators at the CDC attempted to develop a device that would allow these animals to "self-vaccinate." The scientists modified earlier devices—which had been used by trappers and ranchers—so that they would vaccinate, rather than kill, the coyotes or raccoons that happened upon them.

One of these early devices that the CDC sought to tweak was the questionably named "Humane Coyote Getter." The Getter had originally been patented in 1934 as a commercial device "for killing fur-bearing animals." It was a spring-loaded tube gun weaponized with a live shell of poisonous cyanide. Trappers set the device by partially burying it, then covering with bait—a piece of scented wool. When a coyote bit at the wool, the device shot a stream of cyanide into the coyote's mouth. It was a cruel device.

Ad in black and green for Humane Coyote Getter. Image of coyote sniffing product. Image of product, a spike-looking thing with wings.

Diagram in black and white showing spike-like mechanism.

CDC researchers sought to refashion the "Getter" into a truly humane device: they rigged it with shells of an oral rabies vaccine, rather than cyanide. Unfortunately, testing showed that the altered device sometimes wounded the animal's mouth. Further, the oral vaccine failed to create an acceptable level of immunity to rabies. Thus, both the vaccine and the device were deemed failures.

Photo: Metal device with small hook.

Illustration showing how a Vac-Trap works. Green grass, syringe, arm, and trigger pan shown.

Another device tested by the CDC was the Vac-Trap. This trap was inspired by a common device used by trappers: an animal would spring the trap by stepping on a metal pressure plate, triggering the device to close on the leg of the animal. The researchers modified this design so that when an animal stepped on the trigger plate a syringe full of vaccine swung around and jabbed the animal's body. Vaccinated, the animal continued on its merry way.

Device

Both the Humane Coyote Getter and the Vac-Trap illustrate that the struggle against rabies has been twofold: first, to devise safe and effective vaccines and therapies; second, to develop effective methods to deliver those vaccines to vulnerable populations, whether human or animal.

More recently, attempts to stop the spread of rabies have focused on a different kind of hacked self-vaccination device: food laden with a recombinant virus. Scientists have modified the world's oldest vaccine—the vaccinia virus vaccine, used to eradicate smallpox—in order to create new rabies vaccines. These genetically engineered recombinant vaccines are created by inserting a harmless gene from the rabies virus into the vaccinia virus. The vaccinia acts as the delivery device, while the rabies gene triggers the production of antibodies.

Tubular container with small sticks inside of it.

When put into food, animals eat the new vaccine, orally vaccinating themselves. The method has been used successfully in some wild animal populations, and scientists hope to apply it in areas with abundant populations of non-vaccinated stray dogs, as those animals are a main cause of human rabies infection. Perhaps, with a bit of clever hacking, the same vaccine that eradicated smallpox will now help to eradicate rabies.

Rachel Anderson is a research and project assistant in the Division of Medicine and Science.

Explore the Antibody Initiative website to see the museum's rich collections, which span the entire history of antibody-based therapies and diagnostics. 

The Antibody Initiative was made possible through the generous support of Genentech.

 

Posted Date: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 07:00
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M*A*S*H ended, but is not gone or forgotten

National Museum of American History
Blue book with photos of show cast and text: “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”The final episode of “M*A*S*H” was co-written with eight collaborators and directed by star Alan Alda.

Despite the photo ops and historic border crossings that emerged from the on-again off-again Korean summit this past spring, the Korean War has yet to come to a formal close because South Korea never signed the 1953 truce ending hostilities. For many Americans, the conflict ended on February 28, 1983, when the long-running television series set during the war, M*A*S*H, aired its final episode.

The series had an incredible 11-year run (nearly four times the length of the actual Korean conflict, 1950–1953). M*A*S*H followed the adventures—some boozy, philandering, and anti-authoritarian, and others heroic, noble, and lifesaving—of doctors and nurses of the fictional 4077 mobile army surgical hospital.

Two martini glasses and jar of olivesCaptains Hawkeye Pierce and B.J. Hunnicutt frequently served martinis from these glasses, with gin they distilled themselves.

The M*A*S*H finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” remains the most watched scripted television episode of all time. It is important to note, however, that the episode aired in a different television landscape—long before streaming and binge watching were possible, when programming was dominated by three networks offering limited choices. The finale smashed previous viewing records, including those held by the 1980 Season 4 premiere of Dallas, which continued the prime time soap opera’s “who shot J.R.?” mystery, and the finale for the 1977 miniseries Roots, which dramatized author Alex Haley’s family history from enslavement in West Africa to liberation after the Civil War.

TV Ratings, Source: New York Times and Nielsen

1983 proved a watershed year for television audiences, as the most watched made-for-TV movie, The Day After, also debuted that year. The movie, which graphically depicted the ravages of nuclear war, was a traumatizing collective experience during the height of the Reagan-era arms race. Despite weeks of hype and debate preceding it and the network providing counselors on toll-free numbers following the show, the movie garnered 77.4 million viewers—far fewer than the M*A*S*H finale.

The final episodes of perennial crowd-pleasing 1990s-era sitcoms, including Cheers, Seinfeld, and Friends did not surpass the M*A*S*H audience either.

Call sheetCall sheet from 20th Century Fox showing that final exterior photography took place at Malibu Creek State Park on Wednesday, December 8, 1982.

One reason for the high viewership is that the show lasted a whopping two-and-a-half hours. The producers lengthened the episode to incorporate a real-life brush fire that devastated the external M*A*S*H set in the Santa Monica Mountains in late 1982. Instead of rebuilding the set, the writers wrote the fire into the script, in which North Korean incendiary devices spark a fast-moving blaze that forces the 4077 to “bug out” to another location. In addition to using real fire footage, editors also reused scenes from an earlier episode (“Bug Out,” Season 5, Episode 1) in which an encroaching battle forces the 4077 to evacuate after Col. Sherman Potter finally quells false rumors of an impending “bug out” drill. The same shots of tents getting folded up, trucks pulling out, and the lowering of the crate serving as the basket for the basketball court appear in nearly the same sequence in both episodes.

In one of the closing scenes of the finale, shot at the mountain, the M*A*S*H crew dismantles the iconic signpost to “take their hometowns home.” Nurse Kellye Yamato grabs Honolulu and B.J. Hunnicutt swipes San Francisco, which rests between the handlebar and headlight of his motorbike as he rides away. Throughout the show’s 11-year run, the placards on the post changed towns and positions, making it likely that there were multiple signs or that the prop was reassembled occasionally. Los Angeles, Honolulu, Indianapolis, and two Tokyos appear in different shows or publicity shots, but not on the museum’s signpost as pictured here.

Photo of a wooden sign with white panels pointing to different cities, such as TokyoPointing the way to any place but here, this prop reflects the characters' humorous efforts to cope with the horrors of war.

M*A*S*H was still garnering high ratings when the creative team decided to end the series. According to actor, director, and writer Alan Alda, the team wanted to ensure that show’s quality did not deteriorate.

“I felt that we were running out of steam, and repeating ourselves. And I personally wanted to go out on a high note, artistically,” Alda said during a phone interview in 2017.

Page of typed textInterview transcript used by “M*A*S*H” writers as inspiration and research for story lines and characters.

Alda, who wrote several episodes, explained that many story ideas came from more than 50 interviews conducted by head writer Larry Gelbart with medical personnel and soldiers who had served in Korea and Vietnam. Several of these interviews are in the Smithsonian archives today.

“All of us who wrote for the show would pick through these reams of interviews, and look for one line from an interview that could be the basis of a story. You’d see all these sentences underlined, that other writers had mined,” he said.

Call sheetCall sheet for the final day of “M*A*S*H” filming, indicating the set was closed and preparations had been made for a press conference to follow.

Because of shooting schedules and some effort to keep details about the finale under wraps, the episode was shot and edited earlier in the season. The last filming session for M*A*S*H was for the penultimate episode, “As Time Goes By,” in which Major Margaret Houlihan spearheads an effort to bury a time capsule to commemorate the unit’s time together, while Hawkeye and B.J. collect less serious items for an alternative memorial.

Although the set was “closed,” hundreds of journalists and camerapeople were in the wings to record the show’s final wrap. When the last shot was taken, the actors were whisked away from Sound Stage 9 to the 20th Century Fox commissary for a press conference. Emotional sound bites from the stars appeared in local and national news outlets and helped build the hype and expectation for the M*A*S*H finale.

The 256 episodes live on lucratively in syndication and can frequently be seen on television. So fans who share B.J.’s aversion to parting don’t have to say goodbye. Some scholars and social historians debate the impact of the groundbreaking show. The story lines reflect myriad influences during its original run, including protest over the Vietnam War, distrust in the government sparked by the Watergate scandal, the blossoming of the women’s movement, the continued struggle for civil rights, and the increased focus on individual fulfillment. While a few critics accuse the show of displaying a preachy brand of moral superiority, many believe it represented the peak of network television. All agree, however, that M*A*S*H was and remains a cultural institution that left an indelible mark on its viewers.

Lucy Harvey is a program assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History who also volunteers with the Division of Culture and the Arts. She has also blogged about M*A*S*H’s costumes, actor Alan Alda’s reflections on the show, the museum’s popular M*A*S*H exhibition that once existed at this museum.

Posted Date: 
Friday, July 27, 2018 - 09:00
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Halibut Hook

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
This object is on loan to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, from 2010 through 2022.

From card: ""V" shaped halibut hook, of two pieces of wood fastened with iron nails as well as cord lashing. Interior point of iron lashed on. Line remains on side opposite hook. This specimen was found (1960) in the old office of Dr. Paul Bartsch, Curator of Mollusks. It appears to have been collected by [William Healey] Dall, because the label is the same as other specimens known to have been collected by him between 1865 and 1890."

Source of the information below: Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska Native Collections: Sharing Knowledge website, by Aron Crowell, entry on this artifact http://alaska.si.edu/record.asp?id=361, retrieved 5-8-2014: Halibut hook Halibut are one of the most important wild foods in the Aleutian Islands. Traditional wooden hooks like this were tied to long lines made of seaweed. Stone weights held them near the ocean floor where halibut swim and feed. The line was connected on the surface to a float made from the stomach of a seal or the bladder of a sea lion. When the float went under it was a signal that a fish was on the other end of the line. "Likewise we catch fish: halibut, cod, sculpins, pogies, great sculpins, flounder, black bass. The implement for catching the halibut is called yarus [Russian, 'fishing tackle']. At the end of its line there is an inflated bladder. That's its float. When the bait has been tied onto the yarus, the float is thrown into the sea. When the halibut takes the yarus in its mouth, the float dives. Thus the halibut that has taken the yarus in its mouth is choked and dies." - Arseniy Kryukov (Nikolski, Umnak Island, 1909-10). The Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis), which can grow to over 400 pounds, has always been a key food species on the islands of the Aleutian chain. The large fish were traditionally eaten raw, cut up and cooked on flat stones, or dried and stored for the winter in thatch-roofed fish sheds. Captain James Cook was present in 1778 when the chief of Unalaska dined on delicate "cheeks" from the head of a fresh-caught fish, prepared raw and served to him on a bed of grass. As Unangan Elders described in 2003, a chuumlagii [eating raw halibut] feast of halibut "sushi" served on grass was still a special occasion when they were children. Arseniy Kryukov's description of halibut fishing (above) was recorded in the Unangan language on a wax cylinder recorder by anthropologist Waldemar Jochelson in 1909 or 1910. In the old method, the fisherman placed his bait on the bone or iron point of a large wooden hook which was called yarus [Russian, 'fishing tackle'] or cha}am u{ta{ [halibut hook]. He tied the hook to a stone weight and dropped it to the sea bottom on a long line made of oiled, stretched, and dried seaweed (kelp). The baited hook floated just above the sea floor, where halibut feed. The line was connected to a float made from the stomach of a seal or the bladder of a sea lion. When the float went under it was a signal that a fish was on the other end of the line. As Henry Elliott's painting shows, fishermen pulled the halibut up by hand and killed it with a wooden club. They fished up to ten miles out to sea above the deep channels where the fish congregate. Halibut that were too large to be put inside the kayak were towed home. A later method, described in 2003 by Maria Turnpaugh and Vlass Shabolin of St. Paul, was to jig for halibut from a dory (open wooden boat), moving the hook up and down to attract the fish (see Elders’ comments). Wooden hooks were eventually replaced by iron ones. Long lines with hundreds of steel hooks are used in modern commercial halibut fishing. Elder Bill Tcheripanoff (born in Akutan, 1902) described how to make a wooden hook. Two pieces of yellow cedar - available only as driftwood on the treeless Aleutian Islands - are carved into shape and pegged together at the base. The bone point is then added. Before using the hook, fisherman rubbed it with the leaves of wild celery (Heraculum lanatum), also known as putchki (Russian). Wild celery has a strong smell and covers human scent. This "Aleut perfume", as Father Ishmael Gromoff (born St. Paul, 1924) called it, was also used to erase human scent when setting fox traps.

From Elders' discussions of the hook in 2003 (see web page cited above for the full entries) with Mary N. Bourdukofsky, Vlass Shabolin, Maria Turnpaugh and Daria Dirks (Tanadgusix Foundation) at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 4/07/2003-4/11/2003. Also participating: Aron Crowell and Bill Fitzhugh (NMNH) and Suzi Jones (AMHA). Vlass Shabolin: Homemade halibut hooks at Unalaska, all the way down the Aleutian chain, they were all similar, because the men were actually from the Aleutian chain. They went to the Pribilofs for the fur seal with the Russians. Then a year later when they went back, they found a way of building some homes, and then they brought some of their families back to the Pribilofs. When they [Russians] looked over from St. George from the highest cliff, they saw another island, so they got to St. Paul Island. When they went there, they found that people were already there, because they found a bonfire there that was warm yet, a broken piece of pipe and some other items. So, the Aleuts with the baidarkas [kayaks] were there before the Russians discovered St. Paul. Daria Dirks: What are we going to call this in Aleut then? Maria Turnpaugh: Chag^am . . . (Halibut . . .) Mary Bourdukofsky: Chag^am . . . x^umxig^ain. (Halibut . . . fishing gear.) Aron Crowell: Were there different size hooks to catch a larger halibut? Vlass Shabolin: That'll catch any size you want. From a chicken halibut to an eight-footer will get on that. Maria Turnpaugh: There’s one like this in my son’s cabin. He’s making all these old things like that. Daria Dirks: What kind of wood? Vlass Shabolin: It's got to be redwood, because a lot of redwood was used in early days. Mary Bourdukofsky: The only way they found the wood is from the beach, driftwood. Aron Crowell: How were they used? Maria Turnpaugh: Well you just put the line on-

Mary Bourdukofsky: See, right here [middle of side opposite hook]. Maria Turnpaugh: You have the weights on it, big weights. I'd see my father make them. He'd have a mound of big lead weights. Most of them were like that [approximately baseball-sized]. Vlass Shabolin: About three pounds, five pounds. Aron Crowell: How would you put the weight on? Vlass Shabolin: The weight will be on your extended line [on lead attached to same point as main line at middle of side opposite hook], so it will come down with the sinker. And you've got a lead about that far [approximately two feet long], so your sinker is at the bottom and your hook is above the bottom of the ocean floating. It'll float like this, on the side [horizontally], moving up and down, back and forth. It's floating, and you've got bait on the hook. The halibut will come in there and close his mouth [on bait] and hook himself on there, and then you pull it up. They do it that way, or you keep your lead above too, and then you play with your sinker. You're jigging, so you're bobbing it up and down on the bottom there, and the halibut will come over there and grab it. Aron Crowell: Did certain families have fishing spots that were theirs? Vlass Shabolin: No, everybody went to the spot where they knew there was halibut. You have to know where the halibut is in the channel. In other words, you're out there fishing maybe a mile out, then you hit a channel that comes down at least fifty feet and then back up. In the channel, you'll find the halibut going with the current. So you fish where the channel is, and you fish with the current so you don’t have to go too far from the island, because in those days they didn’t have outboards [motors], so they were oaring their boats in and out. Aron Crowell: And when did people stop doing the jigging? Vlass Shabolin: They're still doing jigging. Maria Turnpaugh: But it's on a machine, and one line has how many hooks? And they're all baited and put down. Mary Bourdukofsky: Yes, from the big boats, but the dories are just jigging. Vlass Shabolin: Now you get a whole set of three-hundred foot skate with maybe 200 to 300 hooks on it. You set it and let it soak over night, then you go back the next day. If you're lucky, you'll bring in ninety halibuts off one line. So that's the new way of doing it. But for subsistence, some of us go out only in a skiff, a nineteen-foot skiff or something like that, and go jigging the old way. I like to go jigging. Aron Crowell: What time of the year do you do the most halibut fishing?

Vlass Shabolin: With the weather on St. Paul and down the Aleutian chain, from May until about the middle of August. If we do have good weather, then we go as much as we can, but the weather changes so fast nowadays. And then when we used to fish maybe a mile from the island, last year we had to go about twenty-five, thirty-five miles off the island to catch some halibut. Like some people say, the weather is getting too warm, and the halibut are staying in the deeper end where the water is cool. So it became a problem with our boats, because we only have thirty-two footers and going out that far, you have to watch with the weather, otherwise you get caught in a storm, and there's no bigger boat that will come out there and bring you in. Mary Bourdukofsky: Before the war [World War II] - we were just kids then - when they went jigging, they stayed out all day, maybe eight to ten hours, and even the women watched the water. And then they would see from far away two men walking with a long stick and something hanging, and they called for us children to come get clean green grass and that’s what we do. They had an oilcloth, and they laid it on the grassy spot, and then they laid the halibut on the clean grass. On the side there are two containers, one with plain water and one water with salt. The women are the ones that butcher the halibut to eat raw as soon as they bring it, like sushi they call it nowadays. Vlass Shabolin: Womenfolk would gather together when we bring in the fresh halibut and cut it up, and then they eat some of that raw halibut. Chuumlag^ii [eating raw halibut] we call it. They'd all sit there and eat that halibut, then after they're done, they'd go back in the house and drink tea. Mary Bourdukofsky: But if the weather is bad outside, they bring the oilcloth with grass and portions of halibut in the house. There's salt and knives all over. The men go first and have a feast, what they call chuumlag^ii. Our father didn't go out fishing because he was the storekeeper, so our mother gave us a plate, "Go there and just ask for a couple of pieces, so dad and I could have some." Of course they filled our plate for us and sent us home. Aron Crowell: And is halibut an important food now? Maria Turnpaugh: Oh, yes. Daria Dirks: It's hard to get enough to keep for the winter. Vlass Shabolin: Always was and still is very important, because down on the Aleutian chain we don't get too much salmon. And where I'm from, it's halibut and cod, that's what we fish. After halibut season comes black cod. The fish that we grew up on was halibut. Come summer, we fish for halibut, and then we fillet them or cut them in steak sizes and fish pie and then freeze them in Ziploc bags nowadays. In the early days, we used to just put them inside a coffee can or a five-gallon container and put some water in there so it would stay fresh and then freeze it. We didn't have freezer and stuff like that, we just got what we were going to eat for a couple days, maybe three days. And if the weather's good, then you go out almost every day, catch enough and bring it in. But if there was a storm coming, then you take an extra halibut with you and bring it home. Of course everybody provided for the whole village anyway. All the fishermen, we were just like one big happy family where everybody helped each other. If an elderly person couldn't go fishing, then somebody used to bring an extra halibut and give it to them. We still do it to this day. When our first halibut season comes in, the halibut that they catch on the first day are given to senior citizens that need it, and then we divide it among the families after that. So, halibut is very important in the Pribilofs. Aron Crowell: Is there anything you do or sayings about fishing, halibut especially, that might bring you bad luck or good luck? Vlass Shabolin: I fished with my uncle, John Kozloff, who had eleven-foot wooden dory - people on St. Paul made their own dories then. The first halibut I caught, we cut it up, and he gave me the heart. It's a tradition that the first halibut you catch, if you want to be a good fisherman, you have to eat the heart. That was a big heart, still thumping. He gave that to me and he said, "You eat that." I just took it and swallowed it. I didn’t even chew it [laughs]. That’s a good luck charm. Also, in the early days you never could take a woman out on the water in a fishing boat, they called that bad luck.

Mary Bourdukofsky: And another story I have is about the umbilical cord of a baby. When the first child is born, they [women] save that and when it dries up make a little pouch, drop it in there and tie it. When the men are going out fishing or hunting, they put it around their husband's neck for good luck. Maria Turnpaugh: A good luck charm. My father had an icon, it was porcelain. Mary Bourdukofsky: Yes, I've seen those. St. Nicholas? Maria Turnpaugh: Yes. My mother stuffed it with some kind of cotton to keep it from breaking, and then she got [animal] gut and made a little pouch around it, sewed it around really tight. And I know she used to take it out every time he was going out hunting or fishing. Mary Bourdukofsky: Yes, they wore it around their necks. They believed St. Nicholas helped them on the sea. Maria Turnpaugh: Well, he's the saint for all travelers. Vlass Shabolin: Almost every boat that's on St. Paul has St. Nicholas inside. It's to protect you when you're out fishing. Another thing is after they cleaned the halibut, the bones and that stuff were not thrown into a garbage can. You put it out in the green grass, someplace where it's cleaner. If you didn't take care of the catch you got that day, sometimes your luck would change for fishing halibut, so you have to take care of what you got. Notes: Baidarka [kayak] comes from the Russian word bajdarka "kayak." According to Mary Bourdukofsky and Vlass Shabolin, x^umxig^ain [fishing gear] refers to a fish hook, sinker, line, and rod. Mary Bourdukofsky later identified the word for hook as ux^tax^ [fish hook] or cheripuchka [hook], a Russian loanword.

Fire Helmet, "S.G."

National Museum of American History
The traditional American leather firefighter’s helmet with its distinctive long rear brim, frontpiece, and crest adornment was first developed around 1821-1836 in New York City. Henry T. Gratacap, a New York City luggage maker by trade, is often credited as the developer of this style of fire helmet. Gratacap created a specially treated leather helmet with a segmented “comb” design that led to unparalleled durability and strength. The elongated rear brim (also known as a duckbill or beavertail) and frontpiece were 19th century innovations that remain the most identifiable feature of firefighter’s helmets. The body of the helmet was primarily designed to deflect falling debris, the rear brim prevented water from running down firefighters’ backs, and their sturdy crowns could aid, if necessary, in breaking windows.

This hat was manufactured by William H. Wilson of New York, New York in the 19th century. The helmet has a frontpiece holder shaped in the form of a fox and displays the founding date of the company—“1845”—in gold lettering on the rear brim. The initials “SG” on the back of the crown represent the Spring Garden Hose No. 36 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1845, it operated until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established. The front crown displays stamped lettering that reads “JBT 36,” most likely representing the initials of the owner and his company number.

Now Available: The Ultimate Old-Timey Playlist

Smithsonian Magazine

There's something fascinating about obsolete technology, whether it's a Walkman or a mind-bending zoetrope. Who knows what's hidden inside media after it's been left in the dust by modern tech? Now, there's a chance for you to find out: As Claire Voon reports for Hyperallergic, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara's Cylinder Audio Archive have digitized recordings of more than 10,000 wax cylinders.

Think of it as the ultimate olden-timey playlist—a chance to rock out to cakewalks, popular World War I songs, and more. The recordings were originally made on wax cylinders, a technology that was used between 1877 and 1929. The cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording sound and were used with early phonographs.

Commercial companies and curious individuals recorded sounds on wax cylinders, like a record in the shape of a tube. They were sold inside cardboard packaging that contained slips of paper to identify each recording. For the first time, the cylinders made everything from speeches and anti-Prohibition songs to foxtrots available in people's homes.

Not only did wax cylinders usher in the beginning of the modern recording industry, but they were also perfect for field recordings. Audio conservationist George Brock-Nannestad writes that the cylinders could even be used in places that lacked electricity—and were used long after the last ones were made in 1929. The UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive contains gems, such as mysterious anthropological recordings made in Tahiti during the 1920s.

Researchers at the Cylinder Audio Archive aren't done yet, either: Voon writes that the archive still has more than 2,000 recordings left to digitize. If you're taken by the bygone technology, you can even "adopt" a cylinder to make sure it gets preserved. So, who wants to step up and make sure this 1907 recording of "Teach Me How to Win a Beau" survives into the 21st century?

Researchers Are Examining a 9,000-Year-Old Bison Mummy

Smithsonian Magazine

In the reaches of East Siberia, in the north of the Ust-Yana district, a section of lake shore slumped in 2011, revealing the frozen 9,000-year old body of a bison. The locals found the remains and delivered them to the Academy of Sciences in Yakutia, who realized this mummified bison was remarkably well preserved, reports The Siberian Times. Now, the first results from the necropsy are in, the researchers announced at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The bison is a steppe bison, a species that lived during the early Holocene epoch, or 9,000 to 12,000 years ago. The mummy is in such good condition that the brain appears to be complete, though shrunken. Other organs, including the heart, blood vessels and stomach look to be close to their normal size, writes the Daily Mail. The find is a rare opportunity, explains Olga Potopova of the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs in South Dakota:

It is one out of three relatively complete steppe bison mummies that exist in the world, and it is the most complete out of those three.

The body is in excellent condition. Normally, we find the mummies that are significantly damaged by predators in the past, or by modern arctic foxes and others, as soon as mummies are thawed out from the permafrost.

Such processes happen very quickly, and a mummy that thaws out during summer may be gone in a few months forever. 

Very few complete steppe bison have ever surfaced. This Siberian bison joins a much older steppe bison skeleton, nicknamed Bison Bob, that was discovered in 2013 and the remarkably well-mummified Alaska steppe bison (a different but related species) named Blue Babe. However, records of animals from the Siberian specimen’s era, known as the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary, are rare, Potopova says.  

“The exclusively good preservation of the Yukagir bison mummy allows direct anatomical comparisons with modern species of Bison and cattle, as well as with extinct species of bison that were gone at the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary," Evgeny Maschenko, a scientist from the Paleontological Institute in Moscow working on the project, says in a press release

Further study of the bison’s parasites and stomach contents could give the researchers a more complete picture of life in the Holocene. They’ve noted so far that this animal had very little fat and may have died of starvation. He was about 4 years old. But more clues could led them to possible causes for the whole species’ extinction. 

Cotton

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Get Lost in London’s Secret Gardens

Smithsonian Magazine

With more than 300 gardens—some public, others private, many secret—London amounts to one of Europe’s greenest capitals. Towering pink hollyhocks creep over a high brick wall off a busy street; red and green ivy bedecks apartment courtyards. Offices and museums set aside valuable real estate for a patch of green with fruit trees and flowers.

It’s easy to miss such gardens amid London’s sensory overload, even for locals living in their easy reach. London’s Vauxhall neighborhood, for instance, is full of rollicking after-hours clubs and traffic-choked streets and bridges. Seek out relief in Bonnington Square Garden, a ragtag oasis of trees, vines, and flowering shrubs in a closed-off square of Victorian townhouses. This is a true diamond in the rough. Known in the 1970s as a warren for hippies and squatters, Bonnington Square reflects its eccentric past, planted as it is with a tangle of mimosa, beech, and mulberry trees as well as lavender, giant ferns, low-growing palms—and the appropriately vegan Bonnington Café.

To the north, in the urban thick between King’s Cross Train Station and Regent’s Canal, Camley Street Natural Park hides in the shadow of high-rise offices. The park came under protection of the London Wildlife Trust in 1985, and since then, these two acres have flourished with deciduous woodland, marshland, and flowering meadows. In spring, red poppies bloom, while the heat of late summer spurs kids to go for a dip in the ponds. The park is abuzz with wildlife too; keep an eye out for foxes, hare, butterflies, and marsh-nesting birds like coots and warblers.

For a true out-of-the-way Eden, set your sights on Petersham Nurseries in west London. Elegant palms, scented geraniums, trailing jasmine and hundreds of roses, vegetables and aromatic herbs grow everywhere in sight. After strolling the grounds, refuel at the on-site café, which offers an evolving menu timed to the seasons and what's growing in the garden—or try the more casual teahouse. You can make a day of it by exploring nearby Petersham Commons, Buccleuch Gardens and the world-famous Royal Gardens at Kew, five minutes by bus.

Perhaps the most secretive gardens are those actually closed to the public, welcoming visitors only during the annual Open Garden Squares Weekend, slated next for June 17-18, 2017. Time your trip right for an inside peek at 230 priviate flowering plots, such as the arched wisteria-laden paths of Eccleston Square or the green meadows and Victorian vine houses of Fulham Palace.

Oral history interview with Earl Krentzin, 2002 August 30-31

Archives of American Art
Transcript: 48 pages. An interview of Earl Krentzin conducted 2002 August 30-31, by Jan Yager, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.
Krentzin speaks of his family and childhood; the education he received in Detroit, Michigan; attending Wayne State University then Cranbrook Academy of Art; deciding to major in metalwork; being exposed to Dick Thomas at Cranbrook; meeting his wife, Lorraine Wolstein at Wayne; their son Alexander; receiving a Fulbright in 1957 and 1958 and traveling to the Royal College of Art in London; visiting the museums in England and traveling throughout Europe during their time abroad; the different places he has lived in the United States; winning the Founder' Prize at the Michigan Craft Show as well as the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award; the different types of things that he and his wife collect; a gallery manager named Margaret Conzelman; Lawrence Fleischman and his insistence on Krentzin having a show in New York; the James Graham & Sons Gallery and Kennedy Gallery; and the "Young Americans Show" at the American Craft Museum and "Fiber, Clay and Metal" in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He also discusses, his interest in the English magazine, "Country Life;" flea markets in the Detroit area; trades and barters with fellow artists; the 1964 World Crafts Conference at Columbia University, organized by Stanley Lechtzin; the Michigan Silversmiths Guild; the Henry Ford Museum and Detroit Historical Society; how his process has remained the same and his pieces have only gotten a little bit larger; the commission for the Westland Shopping Center in Westland, Michigan; the jewelry he creates; the little figures, he calls "creatures," in his work; Larry Fleischman and his Krentzin collection; the important encouragement from his wife Lorraine; the significance of university training, and his disapproval of students immediately attending RISD or Cranbrook after high school; his fascination with Medieval European metalwork, Japanese metalwork, and the Bauhaus as well; the Archives of American Art and its beginnings in Detriot; he concludes with a discussion about natural objects, such as ivory or exotic woods, and the debate of their usage, then and now. Krentzin also recalls Robert Eaton, Dick Thomas, Lillian Wallick Elliott, Karl Fox, Mike Vizzini, and others.

Tunnel Vision

Smithsonian Magazine

Pinau Merlin likes to watch things. She especially likes to watch holes in the ground. Big holes, little holes. Ant holes, perhaps, or pack rat holes, badger holes, bumblebee holes. Mysterious holes for which there are no obvious reasons or explanations.

Recently, author T. Edward Nickens followed Merlin all over Arizona's Rincon Mountains in search of holes to watch. After three days his eyeballs were exhausted. Nickens and Merlin eagerly waited, and watched, outside a female tarantula's burrow—to no avail—for the spider to make an appearance. They watched Gila monsters drinking from small pools high in the Rincons. They watched great horned owl chicks staring amber-eyed from their roosts. They watched ants, bees, wasps, lizards, ground squirrels, cactus wrens, caracaras and assorted snakes dive into, peer out of, attack prey and copulate in various holes, dens, burrows and depressions.

"The more you know about what you see, the more you come to appreciate the intricacies of life, and the fantastic ways that animals have evolved to live in specific environments," Merlin says. "And looking at holes is a great way to get to know the neighbors. You see rabbit fur by the kit fox hole, and it's like reading the morning paper. Who was out last night? What were they doing?"

Some people might consider the act of watching holes in the ground an unfruitful enterprise, but more than 6,000 enthusiasts have bought Merlin's Field Guide to Desert Holes. Published two years ago by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, just outside Tucson, it's now in its second printing and is being distributed nationally.

"There is this sense of having to be productive, having to justify your every moment," Merlin says. "When I take people out to the desert now, I have them just sit, and listen, and sniff, and look." She cocks an ear toward the sound of a tree frog "bleating" up-canyon. "Usually five minutes is enough."

Image by Lynda Richardson. To check out a tortoise burrow, Merlin (with Park Service wildlife biologist Don Swann) uses a handheld mirror to reflect light into it. (original image)

Image by Lynda Richardson. A desert tortoise (emerging from its den) may use the same burrow for many years. (original image)

Image by Lynda Richardson. Merlin (looking for woodpecker holes in saguaro cacti) has napped beside rattlers. (original image)

Image by Lynda Richardson. Merlin can identify a tarantula hole, even one made by a photographer, from outside. (original image)

Image by Lynda Richardson. When a rock squirrel meets a snake, it may attempt to push sand or dirt at its face. (original image)

An Expansive, Privately Funded Park in Patagonia Will Open to Visitors This Winter

Smithsonian Magazine

Chile already has 36 national parks, 49 national reserves and 15 natural monuments, but they will soon get one more, without having to build any of the welcome centers, trails, or other infrastructure projects that are required to create an accessible public space. 

That's all being taken care of by Conservación Patagonica, a non-profit started by Kristine Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia, the clothing company. Conservación Patagonica is building the park with the intention of donating it to the Chilean government once it is up and running. The organization did this before, most notably in Argentina, where in 2002, they donated Monte Leon National Park to the Argentinian government. 

Travel writer Dana De Graff wrote about her experience as a working for Conservación Patagonica in the nascent Parque Nacional Patagonia for National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel website

Having a national park as a backyard was exhilarating. I had unfettered access to hiking trails, mountains, lakes, rivers, valleys, forests, steeps, and grasslands. The landscape often brought me to tears, and I don’t cry easily. I saw foxes, horses, deer, guanacos, flamingoes, and hares on a daily basis; once, I saw a puma dart out of the grasslands and tear up and over a hill.

Of course, it wasn’t always easy living in such an isolated place. Road closures due to rockslides, ice, and mud were part of daily life, the Internet was slow or nonexistent, and machismo was (and is) an ever-present reality. The winter, with its darkness and solitude, was the hardest season for me to endure; I did, however, gain an appreciation for boxed wine and the warmth of a simple wood stove.

The park is technically open to the public now, but Conservación Patagonica asks that visitors plan on being as self-sufficient as possible if they choose to visit before the park officially opens to the public this December. 

The entire effort has cost millions of dollars and has been hailed by many conservationists. But there is still some controversy around the project, as Bloomberg Businessweek found last month:

Patagonia Park has also become a lightning rod for local grievances. In the transition from cattle and sheep to tourism, local leaders say, the park has cost the region jobs, left rancher families destitute, and driven up prices on livestock. Much as American ranchers fight the reintroduction of wolves in Wyoming, the Tompkinses’ critics also say that studying pumas, rather than killing them, has led to livestock losses on bordering properties. Moreover, locals and even foreign academics lament that in their zeal to protect wildlife, the Tompkinses will drive the gauchos, the cowboys of Patagonia, into cultural extinction.

Kristine and Doug Tompkins hope that given time, relations will improve and they will be able to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the local community. 

As Doug Tompkins told Businessweek: 

“You can’t get everybody to agree on anything, anywhere,” Doug says. “But what you do find out is that with a national park most everybody agrees after the fact. This is the interesting thing. Around the world, parks face fierce local opposition. Five, 10 years go by and that opposition sort of evaporates. … If you went to West Yellowstone and you told them there that they were going to decommission Yellowstone National Park, well, they’d threaten to shoot ya, or write you off as a nutcase. But if we go back to Yellowstone—wow, there was all sort of opposition in the beginning.”

While LA Journalists Hid Under Desks, a Robot Wrote a Story About the Earthquake

Smithsonian Magazine

On Monday morning, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake hit Los Angeles. Here’s what happened on live TV:

The FOX crew also had a panicked few seconds, too. But while journalists were diving under desks, a robot was writing the news story about the earthquake. Will Oremus at Slate explains:

Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was jolted awake at 6:25 a.m. on Monday by an earthquake. He rolled out of bed and went straight to his computer, where he found a brief story about the quake already written and waiting in the system. He glanced over the text and hit “publish.” And that’s how the LAT became the first media outlet to report on this morning’s tremblor. “I think we had it up within three minutes,” Schwencke told me.

The story the robot wrote simply reports the location, magnitude and time of the quake, along with a note about recent quakes in the same area. (You can read the original text at Slate.) But it was published on the Los Angeles Times' site within a few minutes of the quake and was an accurate, timely report on what had just happened.

That’s how Schwencke sees the roles of robots in the newsroom. He told Oremus, “The way we use it, it’s supplemental. It saves people a lot of time, and for certain types of stories, it gets the information out there in usually about as good a way as anybody else would. The way I see it is, it doesn’t eliminate anybody’s job as much as it makes everybody’s job more interesting.”

This shouldn't be a complete surprise: journalism robots have been in the works for a couple years now. And while there's been plenty of hand-writing about robot job-stealers recently—robots that are trying to get into collge robotworking retail jobs, or making coffee—as Schwencke suggests, robots-at-work might not actually be such a bad thing. Especially when you’re trying to stay safe after an earthquake. 

 

This Prehistoric Sea Creature Had Fanged, Killer Babies

Smithsonian Magazine

Around 500 million years ago, a fearsome arthropod known as Lyrarapax unguispinus glided through Earth’s seas, searching for prey. L. unguispinus, which could grow to more than three feet long, had a claw-like appendage on its head for scooping up tasty critters. It would then devour its prey with the serrated teeth that lined its mouth. And as Brandon Specktor reports for Live Science, the discovery of a juvenile L. unguispinus fossil has revealed that these prehistoric hunters were well-equipped to kill from an early age.

The fossil was found in a piece of 518-million-year-old shale in China’s Yunnan province. Describing their discovery in National Science Review, an international team of paleontologists note that the fossil, which is nearly complete, measures just three quarters of an inch (about 18 millimeters) long. The specimen is thus the smallest-known “radiodontan,” a group of arthropods that had circular mouths lined with teeth. But though it was but tiny, it was fierce: The L. unguispinus baby boasted “adult-like morphology,” including the claw and mouth full of teeth, the study authors write.

Like its adult counterparts, the little arthropod had a spiny raptorial appendage used for grasping prey and the radiodontan’s characteristic circular mouth filled with sharp teeth. This discovery isn’t necessarily surprising; modern arthropods, like mantises and arachnids, are also well-developed predators from an early age, the researchers note. But prior to the discovery of the juvenile L. unguispinus fossil, very little was known about the offspring of this ancient predator.

A juvenile l. unguispinus fossil (left) and the scientists' interpretive drawing of its parts. The clawlike frontal appendage is visible in the upper left. (National Science Review)

As Ruth Schuster points out in Haaretz, the fossil discovery also contributes to our understanding of the “Cambrian explosion”—the sudden and rapid proliferation of a wide variety of species starting around 542 million years ago, during the Cambrian period. Prior to this point, Douglas Fox explains in Nature, the Earth’s seas held so little oxygen that only simple animals “whose bodies resembled thin, quilted pillows” could survive. (New research has been challenging this idea of pre-Cambrian life. Fossil footprints discovered just recently that predate the Cambrian imply that legs and feet might have predated the so-called explosion.)

The forces that drove the Cambrian explosion are not entirely clear, but one theory posits that a slight increase in the oceans’ oxygen levels allowed predators to flourish, which in turn caused the soft-bodied creatures of the pre-Cambrian era to evolve defensive features like exoskeletons.

As large apex predators, adult L. unguispinus were likely drivers of what scientists sometimes refer to as the “evolutionary arms race” of the Cambrian explosion. According to the study authors, the discovery of the juvenile fossil suggests that L. unguispinus babies also played a key role in this period of widespread speciation, putting “extra selective pressure” on animals—particularly small ones—to evolve features that would prevent them from becoming the tiny terrors’ lunch.

Pat Yourself on the Back, America: The U.S. Is Not Freaking Out About Ebola (For the Most Part)

Smithsonian Magazine

The breathless expositions from some politicians and media outlets might leave the impression that Ebola is a direct threat to the health and safety of Americans. At any moment someone might get off a plane and infect us all—a doomsday epidemic of an incurable disease!!!

But even if some people are reacting with irrational fear (or calculated political maneuvers), a new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News suggests that, when it comes to Ebola, Americans have (mostly) got their heads on straight. Good job!

According to the poll, most Americans, some 63 percent, are either “not too worried” or “not worried at all” that they or someone in their immediate family might catch the virus. It's unlikely that the other 37 percent of Americans are planning to go to West Africa soon, or have a family member living there now—so they probably shouldn't be worried, either. But a 63 percent cool-and-collected citizenship is not too shabby.

The poll largely echoes an earlier one conducted by the Pew Research Center that found that 32 percent of those polled are either “very worried” or “somewhat worried” that they or someone they know will be exposed to the virus.

At odds with widespread scientific perspective, however, 60 percent of those polled also are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that there could been a widespread Ebola outbreak in the U.S. So, there's some PR work for health professionals to do yet. Overall, though, says the Washington Post, the poll suggests that “fears among Americans about the Ebola virus appear to be waning.”

Maybe if we can all calm down on this side of the Atlantic, focus can get back to where it should be: West Africa, where the outbreak just hit 13,703 official cases.

Sermons: The Walls of Jericho

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Model Of Female Upper Dress

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
FROM CARD: "INVENTORIED 1975. LOAN: U.S.I.A. INUA JUN 24, 1988. ILLUS.: INUA CATALOGUE. USIA 1988, PL. 62, P.44." USIA Inua catalogue caption: "Model women's parka - Ateguk. Parkas were beautifully made and decorated. The caribou skin body of this parka is decorated with wolf and fox fur, along with strips of skin that have been dyed red in alder bark juice, and little pieces of red trade yarn. This model was either made by a woman either for a child's doll or for collector. Unalakleet [Alaska], [W. H. Dall], 37 cm."

Three Incredible Natural Areas Nominated for the World Heritage List

Smithsonian Magazine

In a month, the World Heritage Committee will vote to declare several new areas World Heritage Sites, a designation that gives important cultural, scientific and ecological areas international legal protection. Among the 35 nominations that will be voted on, there are seven natural areas up for consideration. Of those, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the body which assesses natural sites for World Heritage Status, currently recommends three for inclusion on the list, reports Andy Coghlan at New Scientist. The choices are expected to be accepted when the committee meets in July.

The first is Qinghai Hoh Xil, which Coghlan describes as the world’s "largest, highest and youngest" plateau. According to China’s nominating document, the area, in the northwestern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, is the range of the endemic Tibetan antelope, an endangered species with about 50,000 individuals left in the region. “The annual migration between its lambing ground and winter range is among the few significant migrations of terrestrial mammals on the planet and the sole example in China,” the document reads. 

Even more, it’s one of the few intact natural ecosystems in the world, and supports healthy communities of wolves, brown bear, Tibetan sand fox, and snow leopards which prey on species like wild yak, Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan pika and other endemic species. The ecosystem makes a full sweep from alpine wetlands through grasslands and steppes to alpine meadows and snowy mountains and glaciers.

Parque Nacional Los Alerces (Wikimedia Commons)

Another spot nominated for the list is Parque Nacional Los Alerces in Argentina, which protects the region’s Lahuán trees (Fitzroya cupressoides), the second-oldest trees on Earth with some clocking in at 3,600 years old.

Though it’s been a park since 1936, it faces threats. In 2016, wildfires destroyed 4,000 acres of the park. Coghlan reports that invasive salmon and interference with the headwaters of rivers running through the region also threaten the area.

According to its nominating document, the park protects one of the last intact swathes of the Valdivian Temperate Woods, the only temperate forest ecosystem in Central and South America. It’s home to the endangered Andean deer, the pudu, the smallest deer in the continent, as well as the austral spotted cat.

W National Park (Wikimedia Commons)

The third site up for consideration is an extension of Niger’s W National Park World Heritage Area into neighboring Benin and Burkina Faso. According to the World Heritage Council the area protects the transition zone from West African Savannah into forest and is in the heart of the most ecologically intact natural area in West Africa. Currently, the area is a complex of nine protected areas that is one of the last refuges of the West African elephant, African manatee, cheetah, lion, leopard and Topi antelope. It’s also home to many endemic fish in the Volta River basin.

Coghlan reports that the extension would expand the World Heritage Area, established in 1996, by sevenfold, to 3,700,000 acres.

FDA Approves Blood Test That Can Detect Concussions

Smithsonian Magazine

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new blood test that can quickly detect concussions, which may in turn help reduce patients’ exposure to radiation from brain scans.

As Sheila Kaplan and Ken Belson of the New York Times report, the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator works by measuring the proteins UCH-L1, and GFAP, which are released into the blood after a head injury. The blood test can be administered within 12 hours of the injury, and results can be obtained within three to four hours.

Typically, patients with a suspected brain injury are assessed with a neurological exam, followed by a computed tomography (CT) scan, which can detect brain tissue damage and intracranial lesions. But as the FDA explains in a statement, the majority of patients evaluated for mild traumatic brain injuries—or concussions, as they are commonly called—do not have injuries that can be picked up by a CT scan. By measuring UCH-L1 and GFAP levels with a blood test, medical professionals can predict the need for a CT scan and can avoid exposing patients to unnecessary radiation.

“[The test] doesn’t replace CT in all cases,” Jay Alberts, director of the Cleveland Clinic Concussion Center tells Maggie Fox of NBC News“But in 99 percent of concussions you do not need a CT scan because they’re not clinically important, meaning there’s not an immediate need for surgery,"

The test may also help cut costs; according to Nadia Kounang of CNN, a CT scan can run between $800 and $1500, while the blood test will cost around $150.

A clinical trial involving blood samples from 1,947  individuals showed that the test was able to accurately predict the presence of intracranial lesions on a CT scan 97.5 percent of the time, and the absence of intracranial lesions on a CT scan 99.6 percent of the time. The FDA estimates that the test will help rule out the need for a CT scan in at least one-third of patients who are suspected of having a mild traumatic brain injury.

Head injuries constitute a significant medical problem in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that there were 2.8 million visits to emergency rooms for traumatic brain injury-related conditions in 2013, which is the most recent year with relevant data available. Nearly 50,000 people died from head injuries that year. Even in cases where the injuries are mild, it is important to detect the presence of a concussion so patients avoid doing anything that might worsen the damage.

Concussion-related injuries are of particular concern among athletes, especially those who engage in tackle sports. Repeated hits to the head have been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that has been found in former football players. Hank Nordhoff, chairman and CEO of Banyan Biomarkers, which made the new blood test, tells Kounang of CNN that his company is working on making a handheld device that can be used on the sidelines of sports games.

The Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator may also prove helpful in evaluating injured soldiers in combat zones. According to Kaplan and Belson of the Times, the Defense Department financed the clinical trial that led to the test’s approval.

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