MCL Blogs

The default blog for all Library Blog Posts.

I know, right? Around this time of year there's a regular deluge, a barrage, a spate, a torrent even, of lists of best books. Everyone from The New York Times to the neighborhood newsletter will give you their top reading picks. But hey, the more the merrier. And after all, a big part of our business is books. Through the bookdrop, on the shelves, on display, not to mention the tips we get from our colleagues and you, dear patrons: we're positively marinating in book culture. All this is to say - hey, take a look at these superlative lists of the best books of 2013, from people in the know: Multnomah County Library staff. We love readers!

The Oregon Department of Transportation has some great pictures of each of our Willamette River Bridges, can you figure out what order they are in?

Last summer I got to take a boat ride and took some pictures from the river of some of the bridges.

 

 

 

 

Can you guess which bridge this one is?Underside of the grates in the Hawthrone Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In January of 2013 the Sellwood bridge got moved. They moved it because they are building a new one and wanted people to still be able to cross the river there.


This is part one of a multi-part series on researching past residents of your Portland-area house:


If you’re interested in your house’s history, chances are you want to know more about the people who lived there before you moved in.  The good news is, it is usually both easy and fun to find out who lived in your house!   In this post, I'll show you how you can use historical city directories to find information about who lived in houses that are in the city of Portland. 

UPDATE: This post will show you how to find the names of people who lived in your house from 1934 to now. Portland had a massive, citywide address system revision in the 1930s, so finding earlier residents requires an extra step -- finding out your house's pre-1930s address!  We'll deal with that challenge in part two of this series, Who lived in my house? Portland addresses 1933 and earlier.

If your house was within Portland city limits when it was built, or during the time period you want to research, its residents will probably be listed in the Portland city directories.   If you’re not sure when your neighborhood became part of Portland, take a look at the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability’s map of historical annexations to the City of Portland (pdf).

City directories are a little bit like telephone books, except that they date back way earlier (the first Portland city directory was published by the Polk Company in 1864!).  To look at the library's extensive collection of city directories, visit the Literature & History room on the third floor at Central Library.  The librarian on duty will be happy to help you get started – but here's a bit about how to go about using these valuable resources:

City directories often contain more information about people than phone books do.  In addition to a home address, most people’s city directory listings state their job or occupation, and some include their employer’s name.  Usually only heads of household are listed in city directories, but you’ll see their spouses or (in the case of women who are widows) deceased spouses noted in parentheses.

1934 city directory listing for Lida SchumanOn the right is a listing from the 1934 Polk's Portland (Oregon) City Directory showing that Lida Schuman, widow of Louis L. Schuman, lived in, and probably owned the house at 1737 SW Market St.  (There is an abbreviations code at the beginning of the directory which tells us that "h" means "householder," most likely meaning "homeowner.")

Let's look at another one:

1934 city directory listings for the Magedanz familyThis listing (also from 1934) tells us that Gustav R. Magedanz, who worked at a business called Pigott & Magedanz, lived with his wife Martha, at 5115 NE 24th Ave.  There is an "h" next to their address, so they probably owned the house.

A little bit below Gustav and Martha, there are a couple of other people named Magedanz who share the same address: Marvin Magedanz, a millworker; and Norman A. Magedanz, an attendant at Pigott & Magedanz.  These are very likely relatives of Gustav and Martha – maybe their sons or brothers?  Both of their entries have an "r" before the address.  According to the abbreviations list at the beginning of the directory, this "r" means "roomer or resides." Usually this is an indication that the person or family in the listing rents their house or apartment, rather than owning it.

1934 city directory listing for Pigott & MagedanzPigott & Magedanz has a listing too (shown at right), which tells us that Gustav R. Magedanz and his partner Thomas A. Pigott operated a gas station at 1035 SW 6th Ave., in downtown Portland. 

Sharp eyes will note, though, that the listings above are alphabetical by name, not by address!  When you are looking for the past residents of your house, you probably don't know their names, right?  Never fear, Portland city directories published in 1930 and after have a special cross-reference section in the back that you can use to see who lived at a particular address. 

1934 city directory listings by address, SW Market St.Here’s what the by-address listings in the back of the 1934 directory look like – the top excerpt on the left shows Lida Schuman's house at 1737 SW Market St.

1934 city directory listings by address, NE 24th Ave.And the one below it shows Magedanz family house at 5115 NE 24th.  In both by-address listings, you can see the cross streets at each corner, which can be quite helpful when you're searching for a specific property.

The listings by address don't show as much detail as the listings in the alphabetical-by-name section, but they do sometimes have a little donut symbol to the right of the householder's name.  This means that the person reported that they owned their house.


Now you have a grasp of some of the basics of using city directories to find out who used to live in your Portland house, in 1934 and later!  To learn more about finding past residents of your house before 1934, take alook at the next installment in this series: Who lived in my house? Portland addresses 1933 and earlier.

Have fun researching the history of your house; and as always, be sure to ask your friendly librarian any time you have questions, or whenever you'd like help with a research project!


 

Money infographic from the History ChannelI don’t know about you, but I kind of like money.  And I really like history, even if it isn’t very profitable. Today we think of coins as being small amounts of money, but further back in history that wasn't true.  A single Spanish Pieces of eight coin (so loved by movie pirates) was the same as having 80 dollars.  When we talk about money, it can be about the concept of money- the ability buy or sell things. Or we can talk about the actual physical money.  Someday soon we might have a good long chat about Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations But for now lets talk about gods, empires, loose change, and of course cows.  

Money is a kind of an odd idea when you think about it: you give someone a few pieces of paper or some bits of metal and they give you stuff.  There are a lot of complex reasons and theories behind money. But at its core it’s an extension from the bartering system of trading one thing for another so everyone got something they needed.  This included livestock, shells, and cocoa beans.  People as a group decide what money is worth and what you can buy with it.  Money makes the trade a little more abstract but deals with the slight problem that cows are hard to carry.

By the time U.S. money comes along there is a lot of money and a lot of questions.  What kind of money should the brand new country use?  The leftovers from Britain?  It was available and people had been using it, but the system was… lets just say, complicated.  For example, did you know that 12 farthings equals one thruppence?  Yeah, me neither.  So when the United States opened the U.S. Mint in 1792, they had gone with Thomas Jefferson's suggestion to break everything down by 100 creating the pennies, quarters, and dollars that we know.  

San Francisco Mint after the earthquake, 1906.  Money and the Mint kept up with history: In 1906 when the San Francisco earthquake leveled the city, the U.S. Mint was one of the few buildings left standing and became the temporary bank for the region and the place where people could come for relief funds.  

In a more intentional nod to history, important people (well, mostly presidents) and places are stamped into our money.  The Lincoln Memorial, Crater Lake and the Statue of Libery are just a few that have appeared on U.S. money.  The United States is hardly the first country to use money to show off what is important to them.   The first person to be put on money was Alexander the Great, with the goddess Athena on the other side.  The coin wasn't made by Alexander, but by the ruler who came after him, Lysimachus.  He created the coin to show off his connection with Alexander.  One of the earliest coins in history is from Lydia (now Turkey) and is over 2500 years old.  After thousands of years without using coins and money, it is probably not random that the first place to make coins was a kingdom built on trading the all the gold in the area.

Athena's owl on a Greek coin, circa 450 BC. From the British MuseumThis coin from Ancient Greece is now in the British Museum and shows the owl of Athena was made and used around 2400 years ago.  People make history with money, but our money is history itself. I wonder what impressions our quarters will leave in the future?  

 

 

Want to learn more about money?  Ask a librarian!

 

Can you, or do you know someone who can, remember what you were doing on November 22, 1963? For baby boomers, this day is as memorable as 9/11 is for Gen Xers or Millennials. It is, of course, the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Hundreds of books have been written about the assassination and the brief JFK presidency, and this 50th anniversary has produced even more. A selection of these new materials is below.

One of the enduring mysteries of the assassination is what happened exactly? The Warren Commission said Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (as did his killer, Jack Ruby), but most Americans don’t believe that.  There are almost as many theories out there as years that have passed since that day. Was it the CIA? The mob? Vice President Johnson? What’s your theory?

And why does this event of half a century ago still resonate?

You can find out a lot about how your house might have looked when it was new by leafing through magazines from the period your house was built.

cover of the October 1948 Sunset Magazine"Shelter" magazines (magazines that focus on interior decorating, gardening, architecture, and related subjects) from the period your house was built are great sources for information, especially if you are willing to browse through them carefully.  Here are a few to try:

  • Better Homes and Gardens (July 1925-present) 
  • House & Garden (1904-2007)  Like a lot of magazines, House & Garden has changed its name over time. Issues from 1904-1993 were called House & Garden; from 1996-1997 it was called Conde Nast House & Garden, and then from 1998-2007 the name was House & Garden again.
  • House Beautiful (1897-present) 
  • Sunset (1898-present)  Sunset was one of the first magazines to celebrate ranch-style houses, and their annual "Idea House" building project has generated dozens of creative and dynamic house designs over the years.

cover of the July/August 1989 Old-House JournalYou might also be interested in magazines about historically accurate renovation.  The best-known of these is Old-House Journal (1975-present), and it can be a treasure-trove!  The early issues focus more on 19th century houses, but as the magazine has matured it has come to include renovation and do-it-yourself advice and articles on the history of houses from the early 1800s through the 1960s. 

Some other house renovation and old house style magazines you might find useful are: Old-House Interiors, American Bungalow, and Atomic Ranch.

All of these magazines are available for you to browse at Central Library, on the second floor, in the Periodicals Room.  Ask the friendly librarians in the Periodicals Room to help you locate the specific issues or date range you need!

Questions? Ask the Librarian!

Storms by Mich Dobrowner bookcoverThe cover image of the book Storms is titled "Wall Cloud," one of many photographs in this book for which the land is an minimal part of the image as compared to the sky. Published by the Aperture Foundation, this is the first book by Mitch Dobrowner, the result of his travels following storms in the Midwest with Roger Hill, storm chaser. The full page images, introduction by Gretel Ehrlich, and interview with the photographer creates a book that  allows for contemplation of the form and power of these events abstracted from the sound and destructive power they contain.

The choice of black/white/greyscale captures the motion of swirling clouds, lightning and hail on landscapes that appear still, as yet unaffected by oncoming velocity of wind. "On a drive we took from Colorado to Kansas in 2010 - more than a hundred miles through cornfield after cornfield, nothing but corn - we found the storm, and I photographed it. On the drive back to Colorado, returning by the same road, we saw that all the corn was  gone. Instead, there remained only bare stalks standing there, for, maybe, a hundred miles."  from interview with the author at the conclusion of Storms.

Info: Storms Dobrowner, Mitch. New York, NY : Aperture Foundation Inc. 2013.
Central Library: 770 D634s 2013


Place a hold on this title to reserve it and send to your closest neighborhood library.

Links: Mitch Dobrowner | Aperture Foundation

 

Booktalking Is Her Dream Job

by Mindy Moreland

Photo of Anne Shalas


During her more than three decades as an elementary school teacher, Anne Shalas’ favorite part of each day was the chance to share books and new ideas with her students. When she retired from teaching, she missed her classroom, and those special hours.  Fortunately, the library’s Books 2 U program now provides her with a chance to visit schools county-wide, sharing new stories with young people and encouraging a lifetime of reading.

Anne serves as a Book Talker, one of a special group of volunteers in the Books 2 U program who bring paperback books to targeted classrooms around Multnomah County. Book Talkers visit 3rd through 6th grade classes, bringing armloads of books for the students to check out from their in-classroom library. Each Book Talker visit features a fun, high-energy presentation of new titles, an aspect of the position that Anne particularly enjoys. “I get to be a ham,” she says, adding that her natural introversion seems to vanish when she has the chance to perform for a group of students. Thanks to her talents, and those of her fellow volunteers, the Books 2 U program now reaches more than 25,000 students at 49 schools, as well as a robust summer outreach program.     

Now in her fifth year as a Book Talker, Anne relishes the connections she has with her former school, thanks to Books 2 U, as well as the chance to connect with students and watch them grow. Anne compares the experience of being a Book Talker to that of being a classroom grandparent, able to experience all the best parts of classroom teaching all over again while helping hundreds of new students each year to get excited about reading. “It’s the absolute perfect dream retirement position,” she says.

A Few Facts About Anne

Home library: Albina Library

Currently reading: In Falling Snow by Mary Rose MacColl and just finished How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.

Most influential book: No one book has been a predominant influence.  Poetry probably has had more of an influence on me: A. E. Housman, W.H. Auden and Robert Frost.

Favorite book from childhood: Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders about a badly abused dog, though it had a happy ending!  I read and reread it for several years.

A book that made you laugh or cry: I laugh at a number of authors, PJ O’Rourke, Dave Barry, A. J. Jacobs, Richard Peck, PG Wodehouse, but one that made me laugh and cry both was a book by Caitlin Moran, called How to be a Woman.  Moran is someone I think of as a British Tina Fey.

Favorite section of the library: I enjoy the new and Lucky Day sections, but can spend ages just perusing the shelves.  I just love books and the atmosphere of being in the library.

E-reader or paper book? Paper books, no contest, especially the feel and smell of a new book's pages.

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: Books I enjoy, even though I know they have no real literary merit.  I am still working to convince myself that it really is OK to just read to relax in a sort of mindless way.

Favorite place to read: We have a fabulous soft rocking chair in our big front window, and also we have bird feeders in our back yard.  In warmer weather, I can sit out there quietly. The birds are used to me, especially my little chickadees, and will flock around if I am fairly still.

 

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

 

Our selectors are the people who wade into the vast sea of books, movies, graphic novels, and more, all to determine what to purchase for the library. As you might guess, one of the hazards of the occupation is coming across titles that they themselves get excited about. We've asked our selectors to tell us about some of the hot new titles they're ordering (or that have already arrived!) for kids, teens and adults, and here's what they told us:
 
For adults:
The Hotel on Place Vendome bookjacketThe author of The Widow Clicquot  returns with what may well be a sleeper hit - The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Mazzeo, Tilar J. Mazzeo "pulls back the heavy curtains of the Ritz in Paris to reveal a steamy world of sex, drugs, partying and political intrigue."-Alan Riding, author of "And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris"
 
Vienna Nocturne  by Vivien Shotwell is a novel written by an opera singer about a (historical) opera singer, and is being compared to Loving Frank and The Paris Wife.
 
Clever Girl  by Tessa Hadley follows Stella as she moves through childhood, through adulthood, and single motherhood and into the "murky waters of middle age". Hadley's writing is described as "dazzling" is being compared to that of Colm Toibin and Alice Munro.
 
For teens:
In January, look for this title that School Library Journal describes as a well-researched "docu-comic" - "Make sure every teen gets a copy." The author describes attempts to ban anytBad for You bookjackething new and fun throughout history, including fairy tales, chess, and the telegraph.  
 
Meet Me at the River  by Nina De Gramont
A paranormal, teen romance.  From the Kirkus Review: "The novel should come with a disclaimer that readers who are shy about public sobbing should avoid cracking this one open on public transportation, in waiting rooms or during classroom silent sustained reading times. A must-read."
 
If You Could Be Mine  by Sara Farizan

Sahar and Nasrin have been in love since they were young girls.  Homosexuality is illegal in Iran so they've kept their romance a secret. But now Nasrin's parents are arranging a marriage for her.  What are Sahar and Nasrin willing to do to stay together?

For kids:

LegendI'm a Frog! bookjackets, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World  by Robbie Roberston uses bold graphics and photos to introduce 27 influential musicians. Two CDs include tracks from artists like Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, Carole King, Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald and more. It's an education for the kids, and enjoyable for adults too!
 
It's Time to Say Good Night  by Harriet Ziefert  Illustrations by Barroux
Bright playful illustrations and a delightful rhyming story follows a boy through his day. By the time he says good morning to everything, it's time to say good night.
 
I'm a Frog  by Mo Willems
You may think "oh, another Elephant and Piggie book!',  but don't let this one pass you by. 

 

If you've ever wanted to move, build or take something apart, you need tools.  The most basic of these are called simple machines.  Used alone or in combination, they allow us to do the jobs we need to do.  They are levers, wheels and axles, pulleys, inclined planes, wedges, and screws.

Simple Machines

Here are some different ways to learn more: quiz yourself, learn their history, build something fun, work on the math and find out how they are used in a job setting.  See how simple machines might have built a mystery castle.  If, after all that, you can't remember what they are, here's a catchy tune to help jog your memory.

Need more information?  Visit your local library.

Indochina (also spelled Indo-China) lies between two of the world's oldest civilizations, India and China. 

The Geography of Southeast Asia

The region contains many fertile plains formed by three major rivers -- the Mekong, Salween, and Irrawaddy. The land is rich in mineral resources, including petroleum, tin, tungsten, lead, zinc and iron, among others.

Today, Southeast Asia includes the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and sometimes is said to include Myanmar (also known as Burma), Thailand, Malaya (part of Malaysia), and Singapore.

Map of Indochina

Here are a few links for finding more information about the geography of the region:

Asia Geography

South Asia Geography

The History of Indochina

The name Indochina comes from the French imperial presence between 1884 and 1954 in Southeast Asia. France withdrew from southeast Asia in 1954 following the loss of the Indochina War. 

The Vietnam War -- United States in Vietnam -- 1945-1975

History Today, Southeast Asia

Modern Day

Here's a brief video showing images of mostly rural places. Rivers and boats play a vital role in the region. 

Researching Indochina

To begin researching in our databases, you will need your library card and pin number. You can look for articles on Indochina in the World Book Encyclopedia or the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia

After the Revolutionary War, the new country had to decide how to govern itself.  The Continental Congress wrote the Articles of Confederation in 1777. This document gave the new individual states power and put in place a weak central government. The Library of Congress has an easy to read timeline for the Articles of Confederation. This new system created lots of problems, and in 1787 all the states except Rhode Island sent delegates to Philadelphia to fix the Articles. Instead they wrote an entirely new document called the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitutional Convention changed the future of the United States. The delegates decided that their work must remain a secretThey argued and they compromised and they created the three branches of government still in use today.

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If you want to know more contact a librarian.

In the great outdoor laboratory that most of us know as The Planet Earth people are working all the time to determine how mountains and canyons were formed, lakes are made and why volcanoes erupt the way they do.

 They are practicing geology. They also study small and not so small changes that might help to predict the future. The study of the earth doesn’t just involve our planet, it includes other planets, and the activity that human beings are doing on the Earth every day.

The National Geographic Society calls on all of us to recognize the importance of Geo-literacy.

You may love to pick up rocks when you hike or have an assignment to build a volcano. Perhaps you travelled to Crater Lake (put on your 3d glasses for this one) with your family and became fascinated by that very deep, round and blue body of water. You can observe the history of the earth in the small details in your backyard, or the larger than life details of the entire world. Just imagine being able to name any rock formation as your family drives by it on the highway, or rides by it on a bicycle.  

For inspiration take a look at the Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) that will also provide you with links to NASA’s Earth Observatory and Visible Earth

In addition to great books about geology the Multnomah County Library has a couple of electronic encyclopedias that can answer many of your questions about the Earth Sciences. You will need to use your library card number and PIN to login to the New Book of Popular Science or Kids Infobits.

illustration of a geologist

Once you’ve satisfied the Oregon State Standards for elementary, middle and high school students in Earth Science, you can start thinking about career options as a Geoscientist.

 

While you are waiting for a new blog post from me check out the Student's Link on EPOD. It's just for kids.

 

 

 

For centuries, Europeans have explored places unfamiliar to them.  The big push to explore happened from the 1400s to the 1600s and is known as the Age of Discovery or the Age or Exploration.  Here are some sites that will help you learn more about individual explorers, the places they went, and the tools they used to get there.

Santa Maria model

 

For detailed information on places the Spanish and Portugese in particular traveled to, check out this link:  The European Voyages of Exploration: 15th and 16th Centuries. Here  you'll also find information about trade, warfare and how the explorers communicated with indigenous peoples.  For a broader website on exploration that includes biographies of explorers, information and illustrations ships and navigation tools, plus an interactive map showing voyages of the most ancient explorers through the 1920s, check out Exploration Through the Ages from the Mariners Museum.
 
Look at the companion website for the PBS program Conquistadors for more about explorers Cortes, Orellana, Pizarro and Cabeza de Vaca.  See also All the World is Human:  The Conquistadors for the companion videos from the BBC.  Be aware that this site takes a bit of time to load.
 
Learn about longitude, latitude, and navigation tools and see a film on how to use an octant and try it yourself at Marine Navigation in the Age of Exploration.
 
Find out how hard life was for a sailor and explorer in this infographic:  Age of Exploration:  Life on the Open Seas
 
Now you're ready to conquer the world!

Need to know the capital of New Jersey? The senators from Hawaii? Or famous people from Oregon? Dig into the sites below to find the answers to those questions and more!United States map

 

If you just need the basic facts about a state, visit Quick Facts: Learn about Your State. Here you can find state capitals, area, symbols, and U.S. senators and representatives.

To dig a little deeper, go to Stately Knowledge, which also lists famous people from each state, professional sports teams, and other fascinating facts. This site also has charts that list the states in order by population, area, and more.

Fact Monster's The Fifty States is similar; it also includes short sections on the history, economy and tourist attractions of each state. Don't miss the links on the first page of this site, which allow you to compare states in a variety of ways and play games or take quizzes to test your knowledge.

Did you know that most states have a website just for kids? Find a list of those sites at Kids.gov's State Websites for Kids

To find articles about a state's history, visit Explore the States. Here you can also find stories about local events and customs.

If you are trying to learn the names of all 50 states, try watching Fifty States That Rhyme, which uses them in a song. Or, if you need to learn the state capitals, watch the States and Capitals Song video.

Finally, if you need a map of a state, visit the National Atlas's list of state maps. You can find several different types of maps for each state; you can either view them online or download a map as a PDF.

Didn't find what you need here? Contact a librarian if you need more help with your research. 

 

 

 

Whether you are researching Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, or any country in between, these sources have the facts you need!Photo of a globe

Culturegrams is an encyclopedia in which you can find out about the history of your country, as well the daily lives of its citizens. There are great printable maps and images of the country’s flag and lots of photos. You can even listen to the country’s national anthem or sample recipes! If you aren’t at the Multnomah County Library, you’ll need to log in to the encyclopedia with your library card and PIN. You’ll want to choose the Kids Edition.

Wondering which sights to see in a country? Around the World, from Time for Kids magazine, lists places you won't want to miss. You can also find timelines and learn some words in the country’s language.

At Global Trek, you can learn more about a country and its residents—sometimes from interviews with other students! You can even keep a travel journal.

National Geographic Kids has great maps, videos, and lots of photos for some countries.

Looking for a picture of a county’s flag? Just click on the small image at the CIA World Factbook to get a larger printable version of the flag, as well as information about what all its symbols mean.

If you still need help with your research, contact a librarian for more assistance. Bon voyage! 

Trees at Hoyt ArboretumAre you looking for help identifying trees?  A simple scientific method for identifying plants or animals has an impressive name: the dichotomous (dih-kot-uh-muhs) key.  As you use this tool, you make a series of choices based on characteristics of the item you want to identify.  Oregon State University has an excellent dichotomous key for identifying common trees of the Pacific Northwest.

Sometimes it's helpful to have a small handbook that you can take with you when you're outdoors looking at trees.  You can create your own tree identification handbook by printing some of the Pacific Northwest Native Plants Identification Cards.  Learn about the ID plant cards, search by common name of plants, or search by scientific names of plants.   There's even a blank template (Word doc) so you can create additional cards.

If you want more information, contact a librarian through your computer or at your local library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Caption: Life cycle illustration from Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium. Amsterdam :Voor den auteur, als ook by G. Valck,[1705]. from the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s image collection on Flickr. The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible online the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections.

Quite possibility one of the most recognized names in natural history art is John James Audubon (1785-1851), considered one of the greatest bird artists, namesake of the Audubon Society and famous for his double elephant-folio volumes of the Birds of America. Audubon hunted his subjects and used these freshly killed birds in life-like poses for drawing.  Conservation of nature was not much of a consideration at this time and Audubon might shoot many birds before he found what he considered the perfect representation of the species. Audubon’s life work and act of Creation was also an act of destruction, an unrealized possibility of extinction.

In my youth I often went camping in MacKerricher State Park, on the Northern California coast.  I kept a journal to record aspects of small plants and animals I found along the beach and in the nearby woods.  Each entry was focused on a detailed penciled drawing of the creature.  Little did my young mind know this was a child’s play of natural history illustration. Our species’ interest and fascination in drawing the natural world around us goes back into prehistory long before Audubon when people first drew charcoaled animals on cave walls.  

This was a life’s work held by some women long before it was acceptable for them to be scientists and naturalists, women like Maria Sibylla Merian who in 1699 traveled from Amsterdam to South America to study metamorphosis and is known for her beautifully accurate drawings of the life cycles of butterflies.  This exceptional naturalist’s story is brought to life in Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis.  It was a profession held by women like Genevieve Jones who went out into the field with her father an amateur ornithologist to find bird nests and eggs to collect, identify, and draw. She noted that Audubon had not included eggs or nests in his drawings in any detail.  Jones’ life work and posthumously her family’s became the  Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio (1879). Virginia, Genevieve Jones’ mother stated that the family finished the drawings and created the book in memory of their daughter. “She had just begun the work when she died. So for her sake I made it as perfect as possible.” The story of the book’s creation and the Jones family’s colorful illustrations are on display in America’s Other Audubon by Joy Kiser.

Natural history illustration is a practice which was not quashed by the advent of the camera; neither captured light on film nor the instantaneousness and abundance of today’s digital images can completely achieve what can be expressed with the process and art of natural history illustration. Unlike a digital image which captures perfectly one particular individual at one particular moment in time, a drawing or painting of a heron or a moth can be the perfect hypothetical representation of its species.

Art and science converge in natural history illustration.  Katrina van Grouw aptly demonstrates this convergence in The Unfeathered Bird, a richly illustrated book showing birds painstakingly drawn without their feathers. This recent (2013) book combines “the visual beauty and attention to detail of the best historical illustrations with an up-to-date knowledge of field ornithology.”  It is is a book that shows how the birds’ outward “appearance, posture, and behavior influence, and are influenced by, their internal structure.”  The Unfeathered Bird bridges art, science, and history and is an unique offering in the continued practice of natural history illustration.  

For more comprehensive collections of natural history art check out the oversized Cabinet of Natural Curiosities which illustrates Albertus Seba 's unusual collection of natural specimens from the 18th century, dig into David Attenborough’s Amazing Rare Things for a history of natural history illustration in the age of discovery, or browse through an overview of three centuries of natural history art from around the world in Art & Nature by Judith Magee.  Anyone interested in the beauty of the natural world will be drawn to the interlocking fields of art and science that natural history illustration creates.


Image: Life cycle illustration from Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium
Amsterdam :Voor den auteur, als ook by G. Valck,[1705]. from the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s image collection on Flickr. The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible online the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections.

http://multcolib.tumblr.com/image/60866198248“City of the Book” is a poem that Kim Stafford wrote for the Multnomah County Library, to mark the formation of a new library district on July 1st, 2013. At a celebration that day on the steps of the Central Library, he led the crowd in a reading of the poem.

Kim Stafford reading in front of Central Library

When asked about the experience of writing this poem, Stafford said:

I understand the library as a force of nature--more like a river or an orchard or a lagoon teeming with fish than a box of silent books. The place is alive, bountiful, brimming, spilling treasure of ideas and stories, facts and films, songs and tales for children in all directions. It's a watershed, harvesting rain and feeding everyone. So, to write a poem about such a place is more like turning on the tap than struggling for words. Words flow from libraries, for libraries, for people in libraries. I was just a small part of this bountiful storm of words.

Kim Stafford’s father, William Stafford (1914-1993), spoke at a different library event 30 years ago at the Lake Oswego Library. Lewis & Clark University is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of William Stafford’s birth, and the 2014 statewide Oregon Reads community reading project will focus on his work.

 

There’s lots of ways to measure yourself, and this video tells you some ways to do it.

If you are paying attention to calories, concerned about your weight, planning to exercise, or just want to check how healthy your are, check out these online tools. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) measures the number of calories you burn even if you’re sleeping.  Your Body Mass Index is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight that will help you know if you are under, over or average weight.

You can look up how many calories you burn doing your favorite activities, or how long you should do an activity to lose weight, plus figure out the best exercise to lose weight. If you’re a runner and use a pedometer, you’ll need to measure your step length to figure out how far you run.

Your target heart rate can help you know how hard you should exercise so you can get the most aerobic benefit from your workout.

There are other health calculators you can use, and one that will help you assess your health, exercise, and vulnerability to disease as well. If you need more help, feel free to contact a librarian.

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