Archival Image Treasure Trove Goes Online

by AMNH on

From the Collections posts

Two explorers sitting next to a nest of just-discovered dinosaur eggs in the Mongolian desert. An exhibition preparator peering into the jaws of a killer whale model. A snapshot of anthropologist Margaret Mead, hands poised over a typewriter in her office at the Museum.

Dinosaur Eggs in Gobi Lantern Slide
Roy Chapman Andrews (left) and George Olsen photographed "at the nest of the even dozen Dinosaur eggs" during the Museum’s Third Central Asiatic Expedition, Mongolia, 1925.
© AMNH/J. Shackelford

These images are just a tiny fraction of some 7,000 archival photographs, rare book illustrations, drawings, notes, letters, and Museum memorabilia that make up a vast visual record of the Museum’s expeditions, exhibitions, research, and collections—now available in the new online database Digital Special Collections. 

Museum artists Ray deLucia and Matt Kalmenoff working on a Killer Whale model in 1967
Museum artists Ray deLucia and Matt Kalmenoff work on a Killer Whale group, no longer on view, in 1967. 
© AMNH/A. Rota

“Images will be added as the negatives are scanned and cataloged in the course of our systematic shelf-by-shelf progress through our 1 million-plus image collection, providing a random selection of newly available resources appearing on the site regularly—a good reason to remember to check back often,” says Tom Baione, who is the Harold Boeschenstein Director of the Library Services at the Museum. 

Margaret Mead at her desk
Anthropologist Margaret Mead was a curator at the Museum until her death in 1978.

On Monday, April 28, Baione is celebrating this new venture with a Slide Slam event featuring New York-based artists Alexis Rockman and Mark Dion, who will discuss how Museum images have influenced their works.

Forest Floor Diorama
A preparator installs models for the Museum's Forest Floor diorama, 1958. 
© AMNH/A. Rota
Alexis Rockman's Forest Floor, 1990.
Alexis Rockman’s Forest Floor, 1990.
Courtesy the artist and Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York

Slide Slam will also feature behind-the-scenes looks at the collections and offer gift bags with a selection of de-accessioned (and newly digitized) slides for all attending. (Click here for more information about the event).

The noteworthy collections now available online include lantern slides: photographic images used by Museum curators, teachers, and other educators of the late 19th and early 20th century to illustrate lectures and sent out on loan to New York City schools. 

Bryce Canyon Lantern Slide
Colored lantern slides like this one of Bryce Canyon in Utah were used by teachers to show the wider world to New York City school children in the early 20th century.

Visitors will also find images of rare book plates from Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library: Essays & Plates, a book edited by Baione and published in 2012 that features illustrations from the work of pioneers in natural science from as early as the 16th century—and which inspired the current exhibition Natural Histories, on view on the first floor.