Albert Schwartz’s Notebooks

Albert Schwartz, longtime professor of biology at Miami Dade Community College, was one of the most important figures in anole biology. Schwartz co-authored the authoritative account of West Indian reptiles and amphibians with Robert Henderson, described at least 8 anole species (in addition to many other reptile and amphibian species), authored dozens of reports on anole taxonomy and biogeography (see previous reviews on Anole Annals of his reports on Hispaniolan giant anoles and Hispaniolan trunk anoles for examples of this work), and amassed a collection that would ultimately include over 15,000 anole specimens. Most of Schwartz’s West Indian collection can now be found in the collections of the University of Kansas, including 15,511 anoles. When Schwartz completed his work on the vast collections he had accumulated over decades of intense field sampling, he reached an agreement with KU that would, in 1987, have Bill Duellman and Linda Trueb driving a 38′ U-Haul truck full of over 60,000 reptile and amphibian specimens of  from Florida to Kansas.  In addition to acquiring Schwartz’s preserved material, KU also acquired Schwartz’s original notebooks.

These notebooks are housed in KU Herpetology’s library and I had a chance to check them out during a recent visit. There are more than 40 notebooks in total, and they extend across Schwartz’s career in the West Indies. He kept his fieldnotes primarily in student composition books (some of which actually bear the title “SCHOOLTIME Compositions”). For the most part, Schwartz’s notebooks are simple catalogues of specimens that include a field series number, the species name, and the date and location of the collection. Although he provides color notes on most specimens, he rarely comments on natural history or other aspects of a particular specimen’s biology.

I’d like to get all of these notebooks digitized and transcribed so that the information they contain can be made available to anyone who’s interested.  I’ve been thinking that it might be fun to crowd source the transcription of these notebooks once they’re scanned.  For those who aren’t familiar with crowd-sourced transcription, this process permits large numbers of internet users to transcribe old texts that cannot easily be digitized via optical character recognition.  Today, this approach is widely used by folks interested in transcribing handwritten documents and numerous software applications have been developed to facilitate the process.  It’s already being used to transcribe some historical field notes, including an effort by The San Diego Natural History Museum to transcribe the field notebooks of the herpetologist Lawrence Klauber.

What do you think?  Are there readers of Anole Annals who would be interested in helping transcribe Schwartz’s notebooks?  Does anybody have past experience coordinating such efforts that they’d be willing to share?

5 thoughts on “Albert Schwartz’s Notebooks

  1. I don’t know about the transcription side of things, but at least for digitization and getting the notes online so they can be transcribed, you might get in touch with the MVZ at UC Berkeley, as they have an extensive project digitizing their historic fieldnotes and putting them online in an easily navigable format:

    http://bscit.berkeley.edu/mvz/volumes.html?

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