Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Huseum, and care of specimens.—The exhibition rooms, to which the public generally have admission, have been limited since the fire to the large hall on the first floor of the main building, and the apartment on the same floor in the southern projection, the latter containing ethnoJogical specimens of a large size, principally from Central America, the former, the general collection brought home by the Wilkes Exploring Expedition, and the large additions since made to it by the several explorations under the direction of officers of the general government.

It is greatly to be regretted that in the original plan of the building proper attention had not been given to the purposes to which it was to be applied. The spacious room, in which the rich collections of ornithology and ethnology are contained, presents to the eye a succession of large pillars which obstruct the view of the cases containing the specimens, and it is only by a separate examination of the contents of these cases that the value of the collections can be duly estimated. In fitting up the room of corresponding dimensions in the second story, an opportunity will be afforded of adopting arrangements far better suited for a comprehensive display of the vast number of objects with which in time it will be furnished.

During the past year, in addition to the rooms before mentioned, the west connecting range has been provided with cases for which the Insti. tution is indebted to the Commissioner of Patents, and to which will be transferred, in the course of a few weeks, the ethnological specimens from China and Japan, a part of which are still in the Patent Office. It is intended to devote the whole of this room to ethnological specimens, especially those illustrating the dress of the different inhabitants of North America. The west wing of the building, previously occupied by the library, is temporarily appropriated to the alcoholic specimens, and to such other collections as are not of special interest to the general public; it is used also for storing duplicates for distribution.

For the support of the museum during the last year Congress appropriated $1,000, while the actual expense of the care and preservation of the collections, independent of the interest on the cost of the building, was upwards of $10,000. If to this be added only $10,000 for the rent of the apartments, it will be seen that the cost of the museum to the Institution cannot be estimated at less than $20,000 per annum.

The steady increase in the receipt of specimens has been maintained, and has fully equalled in number and value that of any preceding year. The different additions were from 196 different parties, and were contained in 308 boxes, 149 bundles, 19 jars and cans, 2 kegs, and 7 casks; 185 in' all, inclosing many thousand specimens, a detailed notice of which will be found in the appendix to this report. It should be remarked that all these specimens are not intended to swell the number exhibited in the national museum, but that only the type specimens of such as are not already in the collection are to be devoted to this purpose, and the remainder made up into sets for distribution.

From the large accessions of specimens received during the year, much labor has been required merely to unpack, arrange, and catalogue thein. The great importance should be borne in mind of prompt action in regard to aflixing some permanent mark to each article so as to presevre all the data necessary to render it of value as material for scientific research. The locality and date of capture of every object of natural history, the name of the collector and donor, its association in place with other objects, its sex and age, are all points which can rarely be learned from the specimen itself and must be immediately recorded. This is done by afixing an ineflaceable number to the specimen and making an entry corresponding to that number in a bound record book kept in a fire-proof room. Whenever a specimen admits of it, the items above mentioned are marked upon the object itself, but as long as the numbers and records are in existence the identity of the article can always be verified and the facts. in regard to it ascertained. The determination of the exact name of the specimen at the time of entry is a secondary matter, as the specialist can at any time ascertain this point from the internal evidence; the other data, being entirely those of association, cannot be ascertained in the same way.

Special attention has been given to the large ethnological collections belonging to the Institution, and considerable progress been made towards their permanent arrangement. The smaller objects, such as pipes, carved bones, stone implements, &c., will be mounted as soon as practicable on suitable tablets; all the older articles have been washed with a solution of carbolic acid, to destroy the mould produced by the water with which the building was deluged at the time of the fire, and such of the new ones as are liable to attacks from insects have been impregnated with poison. Each object of the collection will have the name of the donor, locality, &c., placed upon it, and the whole series will be completely arranged for study and exhibition during the present year. The principal work in this branch has been done under the direction of Prof. Baird, by Dr. E. Foreman and Dr. E. Palmer.

Other objects that have received attention in the way of rearrangement and improvement are those of human and other crania, shells, mounted birds, nests and eggs, &c., in which labor Professor Baird has been assisted by Dr.T M. Brewer, Dr. William Stimpson, Dr. E. Foreman, Mr. W. H. Dall, Mr. Zeledon, and Mr. R. Ridgway.

Among the most interesting collections received from abroad, in return for specimens presented by the Institution, may be mentioned a series of minerals and rocks from the K. Ober-Berg Amt, of Breslau, and a skeleton of the moose of Europe, from the zoological museum, Copenhagen. The latter will furnish the means of comparing the European variety with the closely allied if not identical moose of northern America. Of the living animals received from different parts of this country, it will suffice to mention a golden eagle, from Professor H. Shimer; a number of menopomas from Dr. Walker; gopher turtles from Dr. Wilsou; and a

Rocky mountain salamander from Mr. J. C. Brevoort. It will be recollected that the living animals of a larger size heretofore presented to the Institution have been transferred to the National Asylum for the Insane, under the care of Dr. Nichols.

Distribution of specimens.—The distribution of duplicate specimens to public museums and in exchange has been prosecuted as extensively during the year as was compatible with the large additions continually coming in and requiring immediate attention. The surplus material of plants, shells, minerals, and fossils has been, however, to a considerable extent, marle up into sets, and supplied as far as they would go to the parties having the first claim. Other collections, however, will be ready for similar distribution as soon as the investigations connected with them and their arrangement into sets can be completed. The great amount of labor required for this will be evident when it is recollected that every specimen sent out is numbered and accompanied by a label giving the name, locality, and donor. Professor Baird, who has the special charge of this branch of the operations, has been assisted in his labors by a number of young gentlemen, who having been engaged during the summer in explorations, avail themselves in the winter season of the facili. ties of the library, the collections, and apartments furnished by the Institution to prepare their reports for publication. Those who are at present rendering service of the kind above mentioned are Messrs. Meek, Dall, Palmer, Zeledon, Bannister, and Ridgway.

Agreeably to the resolutions adopted by the Board of Regents at its last session, that “the distribution of specimens to foreign establishments, carried on by the Smithsonian Institution, be continued and extended, but that at the same time proper returns be required,” we have applied to the leading foreign museums which have been favored by our contributions for desiderata especially needed in this country, and have the assurance that in due time valuable collections will be transmitted to us from all parts of the world.

Among the establishments to which application has thus been made and a favorable response received, are: The British Museum and Royal College of Surgeons, London; Archæological Museum, Zurich; Public Museum, Berne; Museum of Lausanne; Academy of Sciences, and Botanical Garden, St. Petersburg; Royal Museum, Lisbon; Ethnological Museum, Moscow; Ethnological Museum of University of Christiania; Zoological Museum, Copenhagen ; Zoological Museum of University of Berlin; Academy of Sciences and National Museum of Antiquity, Stockholm; Imperial Geological Institute, Vienna; University of Chile; Philosophical Society, Leeds; Ethnological Museum, Paris; Melbourne Museum, Australia.

Investigations. It has always been the policy of the Institution to furnish specimens for special study and investigation to naturalists of established reputation, either in this country orabroad. The use of these specimens is

granted under the express condition that they are to form the subject of investigation, the results of which are to be published by the Institution or some other establishment, and that in all cases full credit is to be given to the Institution for the assistance it has rendered. Furthermore, in the case of the preparation of a monograph, a full set of the type specimens, correctly labeled, is to be put aside for the National Museum, and the remainder of the specimens made up into sets for distribution. The following list presents the more important cases of the loan or assignment of materials during the past year. Some of the specimens have already been returned, while the remainder are still in the hands of the parties to whom they were intrusted:

Crania of the recent and fossil bison, musk ox, &c., to Professor L. Agassiz, of Cambridge, Mass.; land shells of Central and South America to Thomas Bland, of New York; land and fresh water shells of North America to W. G. Binney, Burlington, N. J.; nests and eggs of North . American birds to Dr. T. M. Brewer, Boston; birds of South America and Alaska to John Cassin, Philadelphia; Alcadæ of North America to Dr. Elliott Coues, United States army; collections of American and foreign reptiles to Professor E. D. Cope, Philadelphia; fungi from the Indian territory to the Rev. M. A. Curtis, Hillsborough, N. C.; unfigured species of North American birds to D. G. Elliott, New York; diatomaceous earths and deep-sea soundings to Arthur M. Edwards, New York; Lepidoptera from various North American localities to W. H. Edwards, Coalburg, Va.; seeds of Boehmeria, received from the Department of Agriculture, to Dr. Earl Flint, Nicaragua; plants collected in Ecuador by the expedition under Professor Orton to Dr. Asa Gray, Cambridge; iniscellaneous specimens of North American insects to Professor T. Glover, Department of Agriculture, Washington; general collection of birds of Costa Rica and Yucatan to George N. Lawrence, New York; American Unionidae to Isaac Lea, Philadelphia; series of North American salamanders to St. George Mivart, London; American Diptera to Baron R. Ostensacken, New York; Lepidoptera of Ecuador and Yucatan to Tryon Reakirt, Philadelphia; plants collected in Alaska by various expedi. tions to Dr. J. T. Rothrock, McVeytown, Pa.; birds of Buenos Ayres, received from W. II. Hudson, and a series of small American owls, to Dr. P. L. Sclater and Osbert Salvin, London; miscellaneous collections of American Orthoptera to S. H. Scudder, Boston; collections of American Hemiptera to P. R. Uhler, Baltimore; American myriapods and spiders to Dr. H. C. Wood, Philadelphia; human crania from northwestern America and the ancient mounds of Kentucky, also collections from the ancient shell-heaps of Massachusetts and New Brunswick, to Dr. Jeffrey's Wyman, Cambridge.

Few persons are aware of the great extent to which this Smithsonian material has been used by American and foreign naturalists, or the number of new facts and new species which have been contributed to natural history through its means. A complete bibliography of the titles

of the various books and memoirs containing in part or entire the results of these examinations, with lists of the new species, would form a large volume. Among the published results of the examination of the materials furnished by the Institution during the last year may be mentioned the following:

A monograph of the Alcadæ, by Dr. E. Coues, in the Proceedings of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences; various herpetological papers in the same Proceedings, by Professor E. D. Cope; portions of various fasciculi of his work on North American birds, by D. G. Elliott; monograph of the North American Lepidoptera, by W. , H. Edwards; catalogue of the birds of Costa Rica in the museum of the Smithsonian Institution, and some special papers in the annals of the New York Lyceum of Natural History and the Proceedings of the

Philadelphia Academy, by George N. Lawrence; paper on the Unionidæ • in Proceedings Philadelphia Academy, by Isaac Lea; monograph of the

North American Diptera, Part IV, by Baron R. Ostensacken, pub. lished by the Smithsonian Institution; catalogue of Alaskan plants in the Report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1867, by Dr. J. T. Rothrock; list of birds sent from Buenos Ayres to the Smithsonian Institution, and other papers, in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, by Dr. P. L. Sclater and O. Salvin; "on crania of Tschuktchi and Esquimaux tribes,” by Professor J. Wyman, in the Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History. In all these cases full credit is given for the aid which has been afforded by the Institution.

The Secretary, during the past year, has given a large amount of thought and labor to investigations relative to light and sound as aids to navigation, in connection with his duty as one of the members of the United States Light-house Board. He has also, in his connection with the National Academy of Sciences, devoted nearly all his time, for the space of two months, to investigations relative to the proper form of meters for gauging the quantity of proof spirits produced by distilleries, in order to determine the amount of tax to be paid to the government.

Professor Baird has continued his investigations relative to the birds of North America, especially those of Alaska, the result of which has been the addition of fifteen species to those previously known to exist in this country. He has also edited a report by Dr. Cooper on the birds of California, for the geological survey of that State under Professor J. D. Whitney, and is now engaged in the preparation of a new manual of the ornithology of the United States. This work, which is to be illustrated by numerous engravings on wood, will be published by Little & Brown, of Boston, in the course of next year.

Exchanges.—The cost of the international system of exchanges in the transportation of books and specimens is constantly increasing, and now forms no inconsiderable part of the annual expenditures. Were it not for the liberality of various companies, we should be unable to con

« AnteriorContinuar »