A Pandemic Apprentice

Note from MK: 2020 was a challenging year for archives worldwide and the MVZ Archives was no exception. Our new Spring 2020 apprentice Cheyenne Bridge, a freshman, had just started to familiarize herself with the physical collections and routines of the MVZ when we had strict campus, county, and then state shelter-in-place orders. Nonetheless she agreed to continue some of the work remotely, ultimately helping shape the 150Women celebration research for the Berkeley Natural History Museums. We will update this post with links as these profiles become public.

From URAP Cheyenne Bridge, Chemical Biology and Marine Science major:

Given that my apprenticeship in the archives occurred during the virus, my time with the MVZ was unique. While I wasn’t able to be present in the museum for a portion of my internship, I was a part of a project about 150 Years of Women at Berkeley. In particular, I studied the lives and contributions of Women in the Natural Science fields who had a tie to Berkeley, and the stories I read about certainly put an end to the quarantine boredom. Not only are the women I read about incredibly influential in their respective fields, they are also daring, adventurous, compassionate, and truly pushed the bounds in their personal and professional lives.

My favorite glimpses into these womens’ lives include Ynés Enriquetta Julietta Mexía, an intrepid collector who continued her specimen collecting journey up the Amazon river after falling off a cliff. As well as Lester Rowntree ,who realized she wasn’t one for married life so she traveled up and down the coast of California surviving on 10 cents a day. And one cannot go without mentioning Sister Monica Ashman, who was an entomologist and couldn’t give up her beloved mosquito colony so she raised them in the convent; later she gained her infamy after she was featured in the New York Times under the headline, “University of California hires Catholic sister to sterilize males”, referring to her work with male mosquitos. And finally, Annie Alexander, who founded and helped fund the MVZ and UCMP, and went on daring species collecting expeditions including one where she was trapped for weeks. These are just a few of the numerous amazing anecdotes I read about these amazing women., These women and their stories deserved to be shared; they have an enduring impact on the world and I am so glad I got the chance to know them, and hopefully more people will continue to learn of their invaluable contributions.

Ynes Mexia

Google celebrating Ynes Mexia



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Exciting updates for the Archives

Last Fall, we wrapped up our IMLS Museums for America grant called “Strategic Stewardship for Sustaining the Archives of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology”. It allowed us to address long-term needs of the archives including critical housing and preservation issues for our most fragile materials. This included converting a collection room from general purpose storage to a dedicated Archives Collection room.

Before, it was used for storing pretty much anything: reprints, old administrative files, excess paper, party and event supplies, vacuum cleaners, even dead computers! The shelves were bolted and fixed creating cramped aisles.

We removed everything, found more appropriate storage for all the materials (don’t worry, we didn’t throw out all the CalDay supplies!) and started work.

This meant that the museum staff had to endure almost of year of boxes and storage carts in almost every conceivable place in the museum while the room was upgraded with high density shelving on rails.

We chose handsome blue endplates for our new units to break up the white of the walls, shelves and concrete floors. Continue reading

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History wrapped in history

While rehousing the Benjamin Hoag papers, I came across some field notes wrapped in a piece of paper. The Hoag papers date from 1878-1916. The wrapping paper looks to have notes written by Milton Ray, an ornithologist and oologist whose papers also reside at the MVZ. I assume that the Hoag egg collection was bought by Ray and then later donated to the MVZ.

What’s interesting is that on the back of Ray’s notes is a schedule of sessions dated September 11-12, 1942.  Continue reading

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Cool Camp Site

Written by URAP Sierra Abasolo, a third-year history major participating in the IMLS, “Strategic Stewardship for Sustaining the Archives of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology” project. Spring semester 2018.

This photo (MVZ 11158) was captured by Otto Emerson near the base of Mount Diablo in Pine Canyon. The photo shows the camp of Walter E. Bryant and Otto W Emerson in March of 1887. Emerson was known for collecting environmental samples as a sort of hobby of his, so these men may have been out to expand their research.

This photo stood out to me as I was sorting through hundreds of photos because of the extravagant looking tent in the background that caught my attention. Continue reading

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MVZ and Stanford

I just finished listening to the podcast, “Who Killed Jane Stanford,” which was produced last year by a history course at Stanford University. It is a fascinating investigation of the events surrounding the death of Jane Stanford, early Stanford culture, and the power struggles between Jane Stanford and David Starr Jordan. David Starr Jordan, Stanford’s first president, plays a leading role. Knowing that Jordan was influential to Joseph Grinnell’s formal education, it got me thinking about the connections between the MVZ, Stanford University, and David Starr Jordan. And for fans of the podcasts – Joseph Grinnell was earning his Master’s degree at Stanford during the time of the Gilbert affair. Coincidentally, Grinnell was a Ph.D. student of Charles Gilbert several years later. The connections are boundless! Continue reading

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