From the Cataloger's Desk: Cataloging is an act of learning about the world

by Iris Lee on

Library News

There are many aspects of my job that I love. Volumes of publications traverse my desk weekly but some stay a while because they warrant extra attention.

Ryōritsū was one such volume that I savored like the most perfect cup of tea. It is, in fact, about a famous teahouse from the Edo period of Japan, Yaozen. Originally printed as a four-volume set, we recently acquired this rare volume on Japanese cooking which was on display in the AMNH exhibition, Our Global Kitchen (2012). The fourth volume is said to have menus written by Zenshirō Kuriyama, the head of the teahouse and owner of Yaozen.

Woodcut illustration of Yaozen from a volume of 料理通 (Ryōritsū).
Woodcut illustration of Yaozen from a volume of 料理通 (Ryōritsū).
I. Lee/© AMNH

Another reason this book had an extended stay in my office was because I cannot read Japanese! It took several attempts of searching the internet to confirm what was in hand as Ryōritsū. Fortunately, I found an article published by the Tokyo Metropolitan Library that featured a matching woodcut illustration.

Another woodcut illustration from 料理通 (Ryōritsū).
Another woodcut illustration from 料理通 (Ryōritsū).
I. Lee/© AMNH

I learned from the website that the four people eating and drinking are Nanho Ota (right), Hosai Kameda (back), Shibutsu Okubo (left), and Hoitsu Sakai or a painter (front) and they are in Yaozen's second-floor tatami room. Seriously, where would we be without digital humanities?! Google Arts and Culture led me to this entry from Ajinomoto Foundation for Dietary Culture. Blog posts are also great resources for content (wink, wink). Shout out to Edo-the Edopedia for their entry on Yaozen for providing more information about this beloved establishment.

Shout out to all books as vehicles of knowledge!

A new species of air-breathing catfish (Clariidae: Clarias) from Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
by Maxwell J. Bernt and Melanie L.J. Stiassny
2022
The latest Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History describes a new species of air-breathing catfish, Clarias monsembulai, from Congo River tributaries within and bordering the Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

Alas! Poor Dodo!
by Lise Fulda
1928

Cover of Alas! Poor Dodo! with woodcut illustration.
Cover of Alas! Poor Dodo! with woodcut illustration.
I. Lee/© AMNH

Published in 1928, but new to us, Elisabeth Rungius Fulda wrote a charming children’s poem about our beloved extinct animal. Contains equally charming woodcut illustrations.

Art in science museums : towards a post-disciplinary approach
edited by Camilla Rossi-Linnemann and Giulia de Martini
2020
Art in Science Museums brings together perspectives from different practitioners to reflect on the status and meaning of art programmes in science centres and museums around the world. Presenting a balanced mix of theoretical perspectives, practitioners' reflections, and case-studies, this volume gives voice to a wide range of professionals, from traditional science centres and museums, and from institutions born with the very aim of merging art and science practices. Considering the role of art in the field of science engagement, the book questions whether the arts might help curators to convey complex messages, foster a more open and personal approach to scientific issues, become tools of inclusion, and allow for the production of totally new cultural products.

Becoming Hopi : a history
edited by Wesley Bernardini, Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, Gregson Schachner, and Leigh Kuwanwisiwma
2021 
Becoming Hopi is a comprehensive look at the history of the people of the Hopi Mesas as it has never been told before. The product of more than fifteen years of collaboration between tribal and academic scholars, this volume presents groundbreaking research demonstrating that the Hopi Mesas are among the great centers of the Pueblo world.

Chasing the ghost bear : on the trail of America's lost super beast
by Mike Stark
2022 
Chasing the Ghost Bear explores modern research into one of the legendary but overlooked extinct mammals from the Pleistocene epoch, the short-faced bear. Mammoths and sabertoothed cats receive most of the popular attention, but these wide-ranging bears may have ruled the West prior to the Ice Age extinctions that left grizzlies and bison as the largest mammals of the American West. 

Coexistence in ecology : a mechanistic perspective
by Mark A. McPeek
2022 
A comprehensive framework for understanding species coexistence is the central concept in community ecology, but an understanding of this concept requires that we study the actual mechanisms of species interactions. Coexistence in Ecology examines the major features of these mechanisms for species that coexist at different positions in complex food webs and derives empirical tests from model predictions.Mark McPeek explores the various challenges species face by systematically building a model food web, beginning with an ecosystem devoid of life and then adding one species at a time. 

Common bees of eastern North America
by Olivia Messinger Carril and Joseph S. Wilson
2021 
Bees play an essential role in the pollination of native plants and agricultural crops across the globe. In North America alone there are more than 4,000 bee species. In spite of their abundance and diversity there is no accessible field guide for the non-expert. This book will remedy that situation by providing a carefully crafted introduction to bee identification for eastern North America.

Deciphering Aztec hieroglyphs : a guide to Nahuatl writing
by Gordon Whittaker
2021 
For more than three millennia the cultures of Mesoamerica flourished, yielding the first cities of the Western Hemisphere and developing writing systems that could rival those of the East in their creativity and efficiency. The Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs reigned over one of the greatest imperial civilizations the Americas had ever seen, and until now their intricate and visually stunning hieroglyphs have been overlooked in the story of writing. In this innovative volume Gordon Whittaker provides the reader with a step-by-step, illustrated guide to reading Aztec glyphs, as well as the historical and linguistic context needed to appreciate and understand this fascinating writing system. He also tells the story of how this enigmatic language has been deciphered and gives a tour through Aztec history as recorded in the richly illustrated hieroglyphic codices.

Exotic amphibians and reptiles of the United States
by Walter E. Meshaka Jr., Suzanne L. Collins, R. Bruce Bury, and Malcolm L. McCallum
2022 
As ecological pressures on native species and habitats increase, understanding the histories and roles of exotic species is becoming more and more important for conservation efforts. Providing practical identification skills and an awareness of the environmental impacts of these amphibians and reptiles, this indispensable guide equips readers to confront the unusual biodiversity crisis of exotic species.

Explorers of deep time : paleontologists and the history of life
by Roy Plotnick
2022 
Paleontology is one of the most visible yet most misunderstood fields of science. Children dream of becoming paleontologists when they grow up. Museum visitors flock to exhibits on dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. The media reports on fossil discoveries and new clues to mass extinctions. Nonetheless, misconceptions abound: paleontologists are assumed only to be interested in dinosaurs and they are all too often pictured as bearded white men in battered cowboy hats. Roy Plotnick provides a behind-the-scenes look at paleontology as it exists today in all its complexity. He explores the field's aims, methods, and possibilities, with an emphasis on the compelling personal stories of the scientists who have made it a career. Paleontologists study the entire history of life on Earth; they do not only use hammers and chisels to unearth fossils but are just as likely to work with cutting-edge computing technology. Plotnick presents the big questions about life's history that drive paleontological research and shows why knowledge of Earth's past is essential to understanding present-day environmental crises. He introduces readers to the diverse group of people of all genders, races, and international backgrounds who make up the twenty-first-century paleontology community, foregrounding their perspectives and firsthand narratives. 

Lightning symbol and snake dance : Aby Warburg and Pueblo art
edited by Christine Chávez and Uwe Fleckner
2022 
The legacy of the art and cultural scientist Aby Warburg offers many subjects for reassessment. Almost unknown until now are the artifacts he collected on a journey through the southwest of the US in 1895/96 and donated to the Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg (today Museum am Rothenbaum). The results first unfolded in Warburg's famous lecture on the snake ritual of the Hopi (1923). Following Warburg's transdisciplinary approach, this publication examines his guiding principles in assembling his collection as well as his reading of Pueblo art and culture. It pays tribute to the works and their artistic significance and sheds light on the circumstances of acquisition in the sociopolitical environment of the Pueblo communities of the time. The contemporary fascination with the snake ritual is also a topic. Set against this are the previously neglected perspectives and strategies of Pueblo leaders to regain interpretive sovereignty over culturally sensitive content and imagery. Aby Warburg (1866-1929) is considered as the founder of a modern art history oriented towards cultural studies. His research was mainly concerned with the investigation of the afterlife of antiquity in the Renaissance, which he recorded in his iconic Bilderatlas Mnemosyne. Exhibition: Museum am Rothenbaum. Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK), Hamburg, Germany (04.03.20222 - 08.01.2023).

Mammals of Ohio
by John D. Harder and Guy N. Cameron
2022 
A comprehensive and informative review of mammalian biology and conservation in Ohio with illustrative accounts of fifty-five species, including updated research and high-quality photographs, maps, and original drawings.

Mobility and migration in ancient Mesoamerican cities
edited by M. Charlotte Arnauld, Christopher Beekman, and Grégory Pereira
2021 
Studies on population migration in central Mexico and the Maya region among Classic, Epiclassic, and Postclassic Mesoamerican societies within the framework of urbanization and de-urbanization showing that mobility and migration reveals about the formation, development, and decline of town- and city-based societies in the ancient world.

Museums and interactive virtual learning
by Allyson Mitchell, Tami Moehring, and Janet Zanetis
2022 
Museums and Interactive Virtual Learning provides informal educators with practical resources that will help them to build dynamic digital engagement experiences within their own cultural organizations. Presenting vignettes from experienced museum educators and end users, as well as scientific data and practical resources, the book highlights the mutual benefits interactive virtual learning (IVL) programs offer to the museum and those visiting from a distance.

Nature's mirror : how taxidermists shaped America's natural history museums and saved endangered species
by Mary Anne Andrei
2020 
Nature's Mirror is a history of the taxidermists, including William Hornaday, Carl Akeley, and many lesser known, who created and filled the science museums, zoos, and aquaria of the twentieth century. The care with which they studied wildlife in the field not only led to new methods in taxidermy but also provided data for scientists and contributed directly to growing public awareness of how careless human interaction with the natural world was having devastating effects. They came to regard themselves as museum men, separate and apart from sportsmen, who hunted in the service of science. As a result of their field work, they had first-hand knowledge of threatened species and their diminishing numbers- and many felt compelled to educate the public. The educational exhibits they created, as well as the field work, popular writing, and lobbying they undertook, established a vital leadership role in the early conservation movement for American museums that continues to this day. Through their individual research expeditions and collective efforts to create an ethic of global environmentalism, these men, more than any other single group, created our popular understanding of the animal world. For generations of museum visitors, they turned the glass of an exhibition case into a window on nature-and also a mirror in which to reflect on our responsibility for its conservation.

Preparing dinosaurs : the work behind the scenes
by Caitlin Donohue Wylie
2021 
Detailed and in-depth investigation of the important but often unappreciated work done by science technicians, in this case in the context of paleontology.

Skeletal anatomy of the newborn primate
by Timothy D. Smith, Valerie B. DeLeon, Christopher J. Vinyard, Jesse W. Young
2020 
We currently lack a broad comparative perspective on skeletal anatomy of newborn primates. With this book we aim to bring together new and existing anatomical information on this fascinating life stage of primates. This goal is challenging because the age since conception is frequently unknown. Thus another aim is to describe samples in a diversity of primate species in order to recognize patterns of morphological maturity in newborn primates. Most living primates are less frequently available to study compared to most other mammals. This is because of their longevity and sometimes based on conservation status. Still, the slowest reproducing primates, the hominoids (humans and apes) are the best studied at the newborn age. We begin most chapters by reviewing existing information on newborn hominoids.

Tattooed history : the story of mokomokai
by Robert K. Paterson
2021 
Tattooed History: The Story of Mokomokai is the first book to comprehensively explore the history of these remarkable Maori ancestors. The elaborate facial markings (ta moko) of the Maori are well-known, but less so is the unique process of preserving the tattooed heads of both enemies and loved ones. This work presents many sources, documents and illustrations for the first time to explore its subject in a new and original way. Mokomokai were first encountered by Europeans during the exploration of New Zealand by James Cook. When missionaries, traders and other visitors learnt more about mokomokai they published the first descriptions of how they were preserved and the customs surrounding them. This book examines these early nineteenth century writings and describes how mokomokai were first exhibited to curious foreign onlookers around the same time. The acquisition of mokomokai by outsiders, often in exchange for weapons, is discussed along with how these heads formed part of the earliest collections of museums and other institutions.

The climate of history in a planetary age
by Dipesh Chakrabarty
2021 
For the past decade, no thinker has had a greater influence on debates about the meaning of climate change in the humanities than the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty. Climate change, he has argued, upends our ideas about history, modernity, and globalization, and confronts humanists with the kinds of universals that they have been long loath to consider. Here Chakrabarty elaborates this thesis for the first time in book form and extends it in important ways. 'The human condition,' Chakrabarty writes, 'has changed.' The burden of The climate of history in a planetary age is to grapple with what this means for historical and political thought. Chakrabarty argues that our times require us to see ourselves from two perspectives at once: the planetary and the global. The global (and thus globalization) are human constructs, but the planetary Earth system de-centers the human. Chakrabarty explores the question of modern freedoms in light of this globe/planet distinction. He also considers why Marxist, postcolonial, and other progressive scholarship has failed to account for the problems of human history that anthropogenic climate change poses. The book concludes with a conversation between Chakrabarty and the French anthropologist Bruno Latour. Few works are as likely to shape our understanding of the human condition as we open ourselves to the implications of the Anthropocene.

The nature of desert nature
edited by Gary Paul Nabhan
2020 
The desert inspires wonder. Attending to history, culture, science, and spirit, Everything That Stings, Clings, or Sings celebrates the bounty and the significance of desert places.

Whale sharks : biology, ecology, and conservation
edited by Alistair D.M. Dove and Simon J. Pierce
2022 
Written by the world's leading experts in whale shark biology, ecology, and conservation, Whale Sharks: Biology, Ecology and Conservation is the first definitive volume about the world's biggest fish. Chapters include discussions of satellite-linked tags, used to track whale shark movements; genetic sequencing, to examine evolutionary adaptations; even the use of underwater ultrasound units to investigate the species' reproduction. The editors hope that by collating what is known, they can make it easier for future researchers, conservationists, and resource managers to fill some of the remaining knowledge gaps, and provide the information they need to join the team.

Why conserve nature? : perspectives on meanings and motivations
by Stephen Trudgill
2022 
How we view nature transforms the world around us. People rehearse stories about nature which make sense to them. If we ask the question 'why conserve nature?', and the answers are based on myths, then are these good myths to have? Scientific knowledge about the environment is fundamental to ideas about how nature works. It is essential to the conservation endeavour. However, any conservation motivation is nested within a society's meanings of nature and the way society values it. Given the therapeutic and psychological significance of nature for us and our culture, this book considers the meanings derived from the poetic and emotional attachment to a sense of place, which is arguably just as important as scientific evidence. The functional significance of species is important, but so too is the therapeutic value of nature, together with the historic and spiritual meanings entwined in a human feeling for landscape and wildlife.

Can’t get enough? For additional new books see our New Books page! 

The AMNH Library is not currently open to the public. Resources are available to Museum staff and items may circulate to staff members with full borrowing privileges. Staff can submit an application for access here: https://www.amnh.org/research/research-library/staff-access-and-registration

This entry was written by Iris Lee, Cataloging and Metadata Librarian.