Sunday, January 21, 2007
The field museum library began making its collection of books in 1894. It's first books were a result of the columbian expedition of 1893. Over the years this collection grew to 275,000 books. The interesting thing about this library is that while it mainly supports the research staff of the museum, it is a library open to the public. Also the library is actually split up between 9 different departments throughout the museum. Some other things to note about the library is that they still use a card catalog as the primary organization method. This is really due to lack of funding that most libraries seem to suffer from. There are also some other issues the library suffers from. For example, it is a old building. Therefore they have leaky cielings. On the other hand, old buildings are built strong and therefore they have no weight problems.
The Field Museum also has an archives. The archivist on site is named Armand. Interesting thing is that he does not have a degree in library sciences. He is actually an anthropologist. These archives contain mainly papers but also has an extensive collection of audio, video and photo. The problem with this archive is that when Armand took over, the archives were not at all in order. Therefore it is a closed collection and he has to pull anything you want to see. Some of the most common requests are about geneology.
In addition of the normal archives, there is the photo archives. These are run by a lady named Nina. At the current moment the photo archives are available only in their on site intranet. However they are planning on releasing the archive to the general public soon. They make revenue for this project by selling digital reproductions of their archived photos. Also an intersting thing is that they use peer update on the photos. Like wikipedia, you can edit a caption if you know something about the photo. You make the change, and then it is verified by the museum staff before it is posted.
I thought buying my Calculus book was expensive. It was nothing compared to the value of the books in the rare book room. By value, I mean priceless. I witnessed a book which was written by hand in the late 15th century, which was awe inspiring. It was written on pages made of rags. Even more impressive was a full volumed collection of James Audubon's Bird's Of America which is incredibly valuable. There are 7500 books in the rare book collection and the oldest book is the one we witnessed from the 15th century. The collection is behind a locked door and we could not take any photos of it. It is primarily for scholarly use and is under high security.