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Fitting in the form of a leaping lion

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Fitting room of the Foster Brothers Picture Frames

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w ; 13 x 17 cm. Photograph of the fitting room of the Foster Brothers Picture Frames, Cambridge St., Boston, Mass.

picture of a room in Foster Brothers factory, Cambridge St., Boston. Room is "fitting" room where mats for pictures were cut and pictures fitted to frames. Cards for mats standing at rear. Handle of cutting knife of table center.

Fitting in the form of a supernatural animal

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

(Paleo)toxicological analyses of the mammalian skeleton: Environment, chemicals and health

National Museum of Natural History
Have you ever wondered how toxins can effect human populations over time? Sabrina Sholts uses skeletal collections to see if there is a correlation between petroleum exposure and the decline of human head size and stature.

Fitting in the form of an animal hoof (fragment)

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Harper's Bazaar memorandum about the exhibit Nude environment

Archives of American Art
Memorandum : 1 p. : typescript ; 28 x 22 cm. Announcement of the Nude environment exhibit, an homage to Thomas Eakins, at the Fischbach Gallery, to be included in the magazine's "April not to be missed" column.

A Plan of the City and Environs of Philadelphia

National Museum of American History

Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho; Motherless Children

National Museum of American History
Josh White. side 1: Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho; side 2: Moterless Children (Asch 358-1). from the album, Folk Songs Sung by Josh White (Asch A 358) 78 rpm

The Evolution of the Spacesuit

Smithsonian Magazine

This 1964 A4-H “Universal” helmet could fit on more than one suit. The X-ray reveals ball bearings in the neck ring that allowed the helmet to move right and left without restriction. Image and caption courtesy of Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition “Suited for Space” came home last week, joining two art shows, “High Art: A Decade of Collecting” and “Searching for Goldilocks,” in the Air and Space Museum’s Flight and the Arts Gallery. “Suited for Space,” which has been touring the country with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) since 2011, illustrates the evolution of spacesuit technology from the early 20th century until the dawn of the shuttle era.

Astronaut Alan Bean wore this A7-LB suit on the 1973 Skylab 3 mission. Image and caption courtesy of Air and Space Museum

The exhibit features large-scale photographs of spacesuits through the ages, conveying a “visual timeline” of their development in addition to each suit’s unique “personality,” according to curator Cathy Lewis. X-ray footage reveals the suits’ internal intricacy, including numerous joints, rings and ball bearings for flexibility.

Visitors will discover a remarkable range of designs, from the famous suits of Alan Bean and Buzz Aldrin to experimental prototypes that look straight out of science fiction. Lewis considers the suits works of art. “They’re creative products,” she says. “When you’re talking about spacesuits, you have certain principles and functions that you have to follow, and the artistry is in the varying and divergent ways that engineers have approached the same problems.” Spacesuits must strike a balance between providing airtight protection—against radiation, extreme temperatures, contamination and more—and providing maximum mobility for the wearer.

Spacesuits are not, however, built to last. Designed to withstand extreme conditions for short periods of time, these “wearable spacecraft” are too fragile to travel. While “Suited for Space” features no real spacesuits, it does contain a replica Apollo suit and several spacesuit accessories from the Air and Space Museum’s collection, including a glove, a boot and a “fecal collection assembly,” answering the perennial question of how astronauts go to the bathroom in space.

Book 2, Fuel Waste, Nuclear Power and the Environment

National Museum of American History

Environs of Manilla

National Museum of American History
This engraved wood block was used to print an image in the publication "Narrative of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842," 1844, Volume 5, page 332. The image was drawn by F.D. Stuart. It was engraved by R.S. Gilbert, and originally printed by C. Sherman of Philadelphia in 1844.

Beach Tourists Who Collect Shells May Be Harming the Environment

Smithsonian Magazine

Walking along the seashore in search of shells and other curios is a favorite pastime for beachgoers of all ages. When those whimsical walkers pocket the nautical treasures they find on the beach, however, there can be unintended environmental repercussions. Shells provide a diverse swath of environmental functions: they help to stabilize beaches and anchor seagrass; they provide homes for creatures such as hermit crabs and hiding places for small fish; they are used by shorebirds to build nests; and when they break down, they provide nutrients for the organisms living in the sand or for thsoe that build their own shells. 

According to new research published in PLoS One, seemingly innocent shell collecting may be having an impact on these environmental functions. As tourism increases at a beach, researchers found, the number of shells found there, in turn, decreases. This might lead to a decline in beach health. This study did not explore those potential detrimental environmental impacts caused by missing shells, but the authors think the habitat changes might be "multiple," including increased beach erosion, a decline in calcium carbonate from recycled shells and a drop in diversity and abundance of animals and plants that depend on shells, such as crabs, small fishes, algae and seagrass. 

Although the environmental implications surrounding vanishing shells are serious, until now, no one has evaluated the examined the extent to which shells are disappearing. “The removal of dead shell remains by tourists represents one of the most understudied and least understood processes associated with human activities along marine shorelines,” the study authors, who are from the University of Florida and the University of Barcelona, write.

To see whether tourists really are having an effect on shell abundance, the researchers undertook a case study of  Llarga beach in Spain, where they first began recording shell occurrence back in 1978. The study involved two survey periods, one from 1978 to 1981 and another from 2008 to 2010. During these years, the researchers combed the beach once a month, recording any shells or shell pieces they found on transect walks.

Over the last three decades, Llarga beach has remained surprisingly underdeveloped, with no new commercial fisheries or urban sprawl popping up. Tourism, however, has increased. Based on hotel data, the authors gleaned that the number of tourists vacationing in Llarga beach—mostly in the summer—has tripled since 1978.

The number of shells found on the beach decreased by 60 percent since 1978, the authors found. During those first transects, they turned up an average of about 1,500 shells per walk, whereas just 580 appeared on those same walks conducted 30 years later. Moreover, they found a “remarkable congruence” for the timing of shell disappearance; most shells went missing over the summer months when tourism was at its peak, whereas shells replenished and stayed put on the beach over the winter months. Weather, currents and wave action have not changed over the years, ruling out the possibility that nature rather than people was responsible for the waning shells. 

(original image)

While this study represents just one location in the world, the authors point out that Llarga beach isn’t a particularly hot travel destination, and that the shells found there aren’t especially beautiful. “If a relationship between increased tourism and accelerated shell removal can be detected at a place that is not famous for its shells, it is likely that beaches known for their shells and frequented by collectors have had more substantial impact,” the authors postulate. Figuring out what, if anything, that impact is will require further studies. 

For places with high tourism traffic or those that house especially rare or beautiful shells, it might make sense to create laws stipulating how many shells a person may be remove from a beach, they suggest. For example, they point out that the Bahamas already has rules in place about the number of shells tourists can remove from the country.

For other, more low-key places such as Llarga beach, however, a public education campaign might be a better strategy for discouraging shell removal. Much as national parks encourage visitors not to pick wildflowers or remove animals in their “Leave No Trace” program, beaches, too, could spread the word that sunset walks are better recorded in memory, poem or photograph than in shell souvenirs. 

Heredity and environment in the development of men, by Edwin Grant Conklin ..

Smithsonian Libraries
Also available online.


Top Carnivores Help Shape Nearly Every Aspect of Their Environment

Smithsonian Magazine

Humans have had a long, contentious history with the other large creatures that share the planet. We nearly pushed the American bison into extinction due to overhunting, while the Western black rhino was given no such second chance--it went extinct in 2011. These herbivorous victims were singled out for use as trophies and meat, however, not becuase we perceived them as direct threats. On the other hand, our relationship with top-level carnivores--such as big cats, wolves and bears is fraught with an extra layer of tension, thanks to the fact that these animals are sometimes considered man-eaters (whether fairly or not) and perceived as competing with us for food and space. 

These perceptions have led, in some cases, to sustained hunts for these carnivores, from the extermination of wolves in the U.S. and Europe, to retaliatory killing of tigers and lions in Asia and Africa (pdf), respectively. But targeting these predators is now catching up to us. A new paper published in Science by an international team of researchers reveals the central role that top carnivores play in shaping nearly every aspect of an ecosystem, from the number and types of animals that live there, to the plants that grow there, to the diseases that break out. Across the world, top carnivores, they found, stabilize ecosystems, keeping environmental elements in balance and making sure no single creature hijacks the system.

To reach these findings, the authors analyzed how the 31 largest mammalian carnivores around the world affect their ecosystem. The carnivores hailed from five different families and included animals such as wolves, wild dogs, dingo, tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars, pumas, Eurasian lynx, sea otters, leopards, bears and hyenas. The species they selected were distributed across continents (except Antarctica), although most of the diversity was concentrated in Africa and Asia. About three-quarters of those species are currently suffering population declines, and 61 percent are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as threatened.

To figure out what ecological role these animals play in their communities, they first searched through scientific literature for confirmed impacts caused by predator loss or reintroduction to an area. Lions, for example, occupy just 17 percent of their historic range, while leopards occur in about 65 percent. When lions and leopards disappeared from parts of West Africa, studies show that baboon populations shot up. Those ravenous primates, in turn, began eating up everything in their path, causing other primates and mammals to decline. Reports show that the baboons also took to raiding crops, resulting in some families pulling their kids out of school and sticking them in field to keep a constant guard against the monkeys.

In Europe, the Eurasian lynx has disappeared from almost all of its historic range. When Finland recently reintroduced it, red fox populations went down, which triggered an increase of native forest grouse and mountain hares. Likewise, as sea otter populations can make or break an ecosystem, turning it from a sea urchin-covered mess to a diverse, healthy kelp forest. “As sea otter populations recover and decline, shifts between the kelp-dominated and urchin-dominated conditions can be abrupt,” the authors write. Humans win when there’s more sea otters around, too: kelp forests soften the impact of waves and currents that whip through coastal areas.

Perhaps the most well documented example of a top carnivore’s impact on the ecosystem, however, are grey wolves. As the wolves were killed off, local deer populations “irrupted,” the authors write, shifting forested areas into grasslands as the deer ate every green thing in their path. As the habitat changed, so too did the species of birds and small mammals that lived there. After removing wolves from much of their environment throughout the U.S., Mexico and Europe, people finally decided it might be a good idea to give the animals a break and allow their populations to recover somewhat. Prior to allowing the wolves to come back, deer populations in North America and Europe were around six times higher than after the predator’s return. Since the wolves come back to Yellowstone, the national park has regained some of its formerly lost forest stands, which provide a home for other native species as well as store more carbon, which helps to offset climate change.

Here, the authors visually depict the environmental changes that occurred when various large carnivores disappeared. The years those animals were missing from the environment is written on the far left. The species declines caused by the carnivores’ disappearance are in blue, while increasing species are in orange: 

(original image)

Due to their cascading effects throughout an environment, top carnivores also play a role in carbon sequestration and disease control, the authors report.

"We say these animals have an intrinsic right to exist, but they are also providing economic and ecological services that people value," William Ripple, a professor at Oregon State University and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

This study, the authors warn, only skims the surface of possible repercussions that stem from top carnivore loss. In the future, as populations of these animals decline, or species are lost, “we should expect surprises, because we have only just begun to understand the influences of these animals in the fabric of nature,” they write.

The team calls for more research to better understand the essential role top carnivores play. But conservation to protect these animals, they point out, is even more urgently needed. This includes not only protecting their habitats but also facilitating peaceful co-existence with nearby humans.

“Many of these animals are at risk of extinction, either locally or globally,” Ripple said. “And, ironically, they are vanishing just as we are learning about their important ecological effects."

Trader Joe's Agrees to Fix Its Fridges for the Environment

Smithsonian Magazine

It’s one of America’s most popular grocers, spurring listsicles, fan blogs and even its own fan club. But Trader Joe’s recently ran afoul of the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency over claims that its refrigerators leaked dangerous refrigerants and greenhouse gases. Now, EPA officials are reporting that they have reached a settlement with the grocer to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions nationwide—an agreement that means the company will have to fix its fridges in the name of atmospheric safety.

The settlement came about after the United States accused Trader Joe’s of violating the Clean Air Act by failing to fix refrigerator leaks, keep service records of its fridges and provide information about its compliance with federal environmental protection laws. The Clean Air Act has multiple provisions about refrigerants and regulates the use of R22, the most common hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) in use today.

The U.S. government is in the process of phasing out R22 and other HCFCs, which were developed in the 1950s as cheap, safe substitutes for CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, NOAA writes. Manufacturers used these compounds as coolants and propellants—think bottles of hairspray and shaving cream.

There was just one problem: CFCs deplete ozone and contribute to a growing ozone hole that caused panic and policy changes in the 1970s and 1980s. R22 was developed as a kind of “lesser evil” substitute for CFCs, but it turns out that it and other HCFCs harm the atmosphere, too. By the year 2030, the U.S. plans to phase them out completely.

Though the EPA writes that the potential human and environmental harm wreaked by Trader Joes’ emissions of ozone-depleting substances is “difficult to quantify,” its settlement terms are tough. The grocer will have to pay half a million dollars in civil penalties, spend $2 million to fix refrigerators over the next three years, and commit to compliance guidelines aimed at making its 461 stores more ozone-friendly.

“What we saw here was bad management,” John Crudin, an assistant attorney general who specializes in EPA enforcement, told The Los Angeles Times’ Del Quentin Wilber. The EPA states in a release that the settlement, which is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval, will reduce emissions equivalent to taking 6,500 passenger vehicles off the road or burning 33 million pounds of fuel in one year.

Reuters notes that Trader Joe’s did not admit liability, and a spokesperson did not comment. The grocer is not the only one to be smacked by the EPA over emissions of ozone-depleting substances: In 2014, Costco paid a $335,000 fine and committed to reducing its refrigerator leaks by 2017, and a year earlier Safeway paid a $600,000 penalty and agreed to a plan that would cost over $4 million.

There's no word yet if the hefty environmental settlement will cause prices to rise. But perhaps your next glass of Two-Buck Chuck will taste even better knowing that the company who sold it is doing its part for Earth’s atmosphere.

The patchiness of epifoliar fungi in tropical forests: Host range, host abundance, and environment

Smithsonian Libraries
Fungal symbioses affect the diversity, dynamics, and spatial patterns of trees in tropical forests. Their ecological importance is partly driven by their inherent patchiness. We used epifoliar fungi, a guild of common, benign, obligate, fungal symbionts of plants, as a model system to evaluate the relative importance of host phylogeny, host relative abundance, and microclimate on the three-dimensional distribution of plant-fungus symbioses. In parallel studies in rainforests in Panama and Australia, most epifoliar fungi were able to colonize several plant lineages but showed significant host preferences within the local plant community. More closely related plant species were not more likely to share fungal symbionts. Instead, fungal species were more likely to be shared by more abundant hosts, which supported a greater number and diversity of fungi. Environmental conditions strongly affected spatial distributions, with sites in the dark understory 2.5- to fourfold more likely to have epifoliar fungi than in the exposed forest canopy. In the understory, fungal incidence increased with canopy openness. Canopy trees supported only a subset of the fungal symbionts found in the understory, suggesting that adult trees are not reservoirs of these fungal symbionts for understory juveniles.

Pair of ring fittings

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Pair of chariot fittings

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Set of five fittings

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Pair of tubular fittings

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
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