Charlotte's Web

Surfacing women in science and improving global resources, while unlocking collections at the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

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  1. In under 20 days, digital volunteers at the Smithsonian Transcription Center transcribed digitized field notes and discovered women in science like Charlotte Ellis hidden in the pages. While searching for more data about her, one volunteer discovered that Ellis's record was sparse and contacted the Natural History Museum - London about the JSTOR record. The result? Sharing information about Ellis' life and research means her collector record in the JSTOR Global Plant Collector resource will be updated.
  2. We aren't always certain what webs of connectedness might be woven between Smithsonian Transcription Center projects. Indeed, the impact of transcription and making digitized collections publicly available is not always immediately clear. Yet, the effects of opening collections and knowledge transfer became very clear on May 06 - thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of volunteers like Siobhan Leachman and Heidi Moses.
  3. Siobhan's advice is brilliant (and also uses our recommended hashtag for volunteers to connect with one another), but to really understand why this is an exciting tip, we'll need to go back to April 17. On that day, Smithsonian Institution Archives launched two new projects featuring the research notes of Joseph Nelson Rose (1862-1928) exploring cacti around the world. This project is part of the Field Book Project, a joint initiative of the National Museum of Natural History and Smithsonian Institution Archives.
  4. Volunteers like @SiobhanLeachman jumped into the projects and shared their progress with us on Twitter.
  5. Almost immediately connections were made between Rose's research and other projects, collectors, and expeditions.

    Posting on the Smithsonian Transcription Center Facebook wall, Siobhan noticed collectors like Col D.D. Gaillard (1859-1913) and his wife, Katherine: an amateur collector of orchids near the Panama Canal. Furthermore, Siobhan linked Joseph Nelson Rose and Vernon Bailey (1864-1942). His notes on wolf populations are completed in the Transcription Center. Siobhan and other volunteers continued transcribing projects.
  6. On April 18, Siobhan shared on Facebook and Twitter that she'd uncovered details of collector Charlotte Ellis.
  7. Siobhan wrote on the Smithsonian Transcription Center Facebook wall:
    "Thought you might be interested in what Charlotte Ellis had to say on the Smithsonian Institute:
    "Then in September came her visit to Washington, D. C. Charlotte's letter to Kate describes her visit to the Smithsonian Institution: 
    On my first day in Washington I went to the Smithsonian Institution to see how my collection of flowers was being housed. I did not see many of the specimens because they had been filed away with others, each with its kind. However, I asked to see one plant, at least, and mentioned Primula ellisea [sic] Pollard and Cockerell, a primrose I had discovered in the Sandia Mountains. The assistant curator of the plant department took me into the filing room and I marveled to see him put his hand right on the specimen. The filing system was that perfect. It was the thrill of a lifetime to again hold in my hand the little flower which I had gathered and pressed forty seven years ago."

    So we went to the Department of Botany collections search to find some of Charlotte's specimens... then shared what we found on Facebook and Twitter.
  8. Other volunteers like Heidi Moses (@hmmoses) shared the connections and collectors they found while transcribing; including anthropologist (and occasional collector) Aleš Hrdlička.
  9. Together, we marveled at what we were discovering! We continued to connect the transcribed field notes with Smithsonian Institution digitized collections and materials at other institutions.
  10. Siobhan continued to spotlight collectors in the notes, chatting with us and other #volunpeers on Twitter.
  11. And on we went with our transcribing and review. Identifying people and specimens in the field notes, and sharing what we uncovered - on Twitter, Facebook, and via e-mails. Fast forward to yesterday, May 06: