The American Museum of Natural History is famous for its dinosaur fossils, meteorites, planetarium, and dioramas, but many treasures hide beyond the exhibition halls. Founded the same year as the Museum, the Research Library at the American Museum of Natural History has become one of the largest natural history libraries in the world, with rare volumes reaching as far back as the 15th century. The AMNH Research Library is steward to over one million black-and-white prints and negatives, color transparencies and slides. The images document scientific work worldwide in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, geology, paleontology, and zoology. The collection also documents the history of the Museum: specimens, cultural and art objects, Museum staff and scientists at work, and permanent, as well as, temporary exhibitions.
The Library’s Director Tom Baione speaking about the book “Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History.”
Recently, the AMNH Research Library launched the beta version of its Digital Special Collections website giving the world a glimpse into its vast archive. There are currently 6580 images online and that number is expected to double before 2015. Highlights include: the Lantern Slide Collection, originally used to illustrate lectures given to the public at the Museum and the Julian Dimock Collection with its arresting images of Seminole Indian Tribes and those who endured slavery in the turn-of-the-century American South. Online exhibits allow librarians and scholars to present images according to context or provenance to encourage new scholarship. The featured online exhibit “Natural Histories” is a curated sampling of the images found in the book, “Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History,” with highlights from the forty essays it contains on a variety of scientific topics.
Guest blogger, Jennifer Cwiok is the Digital Projects Manager at the American Museum of Natural History. She is a librarian by trade with an affinity for digitization workflows and applications architecture. She makes her home with her wife, daughter and 2 cats in Brooklyn, where she plays drums in a rock band and visits the park regularly.