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The Smithsonian Institution's Crowdsourcing Tradition, Since 1849


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Presentation delivered by Elena Bruno (University of Lugano), Smithsonian Institution Intern at Office of the Chief Information Officer, Department of Mobile Strategies and Initiatives, on March 17, 2011. This presentation showcases the long history of crowdsourcing at the Smithsonian, using sources and images of past and current projects from the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

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The Smithsonian Institution's Crowdsourcing Tradition, Since 1849

  1. 1. CROWDSOURCING AT THE SMITHSONIAN from its opening to recent years… Research by Elena Bruno SI Mobile Intern, Grad. student at TEC-CH Masters, University of Lugano (Switzerland) ( [email_address] , [email_address] ) Thanks to: Pamela Henson and Courtney Esposito from the Smithsonian Institution Archives
  2. 2. 1847- JOSEPH HENRY: THE METEOROLOGICAL PROJECT <ul><li>1847 Joseph Henry laid the foundation of a national weather service shortly after becoming the Smithsonian's first Secretary. </li></ul><ul><li>In a decade since it’s start, the project established a network of more than 600 volunteer weather observers. </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteers were provided with instructions, standardized forms, and instruments and submitted monthly reports including several observations per day. </li></ul><ul><li>1856, James H. Coffin received the task of interpreting Volunteers ’ observations. </li></ul><ul><li>1861, the first of a two-volume compilation of climatic data and storm observations based on the volunteers' reports for the years 1854 through 1859 was published. </li></ul><ul><li>The telegraph allowed Henry to collect volunteers data and to create a large daily weather map that was mounted in 1856 for public display in the Castle. </li></ul><ul><li>Rives, M.F. (n.d.). “Joseph Henry. Father of the Weather Service”. </li></ul><ul><li>Retrieved March 18, 2011 from </li></ul>
  3. 3. Louise Rochon Hoover's painting, “Secretary Henry Posts Daily Weather Map in Smithsonian Building, 1858.&quot; Commissioned for the Smithsonian exhibition at the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition in 1933. Source: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7005, Box 186, Folder: 4; Record Unit 95, Box 11, Folder: 12
  4. 4. 1850- SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD (1823-1887) <ul><li>Naturalist, ornithologist, ichthyologist, and dedicated collector, Baird helped the Institution amassing natural history collections. </li></ul><ul><li>From the 1850s to the 1880s, he sent out many exploring expeditions to map the North American continent gathering specimens of new plants, insects, birds, and rocks. </li></ul><ul><li>To obtain these collections, Baird established correspondence with interested individuals across the continent. These collectors in turn, sent him Indian artifacts and specimens of plants, rocks, insects, meteorites, birds, and dinosaurs. </li></ul><ul><li>Baird also gathered together a group of young men, called The Megatherium Society , whom he taught how to explore, collect, and conduct scientific research. </li></ul><ul><li>Henson, P. (n.d.). “Baird as Assistant Secretary and the Growth of </li></ul><ul><li>the Dream”. ”. Retrieved March 18, 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>from </li></ul>The Megatherium Society, c. 1855, Source: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 27-C, Folder: Kennicott
  5. 5. 40 ’s SOLDIERS-COLLECTORS DURING WORLD WAR II:  <ul><li>For many soldiers, natural history studies provided a break from the stress of war. </li></ul><ul><li>U.S. National Museum curators prepared a pocket manual, Field Collectors Manual in Natural History, that taught soldiers how to collect responsibly, prepare specimens for shipment back to the Museum, and document their collections.  </li></ul><ul><li>Sammy M. Ray, who joined the U.S. Navy and was appointed a Pharmacists Mate I/C, collected birds in the Pacific islands and sent them to the Museum.  </li></ul><ul><li>Correspondence of Sammy M. Ray, Smithsonian Institution Archives, United States National Museum, Permanent Administrative Files,1877-1975, Record Unit 192, Box 557 . </li></ul>Sammy Ray during the World War II
  6. 6. 50 ’s - OPERATION MOON WATCH <ul><li>The Operation Moonwatch was launched by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to track the path of a satellite to be launched by the United States during the International Geophysical Year (7/1/1958-12/31/1958). </li></ul><ul><li>Tracking was accomplished by teams of volunteers, mostly amateur astronomers, who worked for The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Moonwatch Network, with more than 100 teams worldwide. </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteers used the &quot;fence method&quot; of observing the sky: each observer covered a small, overlapping portion of a specific sky quadrant, and watches for the passage of the satellite in his telescope. </li></ul><ul><li>The instrument used was the Moonwatch Apogee Scope, a 20 power telescope with a 5-inch objective lens. The Moon watch teams backed up an optical network of 12 Baker-Nunn tracking cameras. </li></ul><ul><li>Author not quoted. 1956. “Operation Moonwatch Begins”. </li></ul><ul><li>Retrieved March 18, 2011 from: </li></ul><ul><li>!sichronology&view=subscriptionsummary&uri=full=3100001~!1159~!0&ri=1&aspect=power&menu=search&ipp=20&spp=20&staffonly=&term=Moonwatch&index=.GW&uindex=&aspect=power&menu=search&ri=1#focus . </li></ul>
  7. 7. Volunteers observing the sky with the Moon watch Apogee Scope, a 20 power telescope with a 5-inch objective lens. Source: Smithsonian Institution Archives Image of Operation Moon watch volunteers in 1958, a Boy Scout troop in the Philippines) Source: Smithsonian Institution Archives
  8. 8. 70 ’s- CENTER FOR TROPICAL FOREST SCIENCE Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama) <ul><li>The Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) is a global network of forest research plots committed to the study of tropical and temperate forest function and diversity. The multi-institutional network comprises more than 30 forest research plots across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe, with a strong focus on tropical regions. CTFS monitors the growth and survival of about 3.5 million trees of approximately 7,500 species. </li></ul><ul><li>CTFS conducts long-term, large-scale research on forests around the world to: </li></ul><ul><li>- Increase scientific understanding of forest ecosystems </li></ul><ul><li>- Guide sustainable forest management and natural-resource policy </li></ul><ul><li>- Monitor the impacts of climate change </li></ul><ul><li>- Build capacity in forest science </li></ul><ul><li>Ecologists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute established the first plot on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama, in 1980. </li></ul><ul><li>Today CTFS plots involve hundreds of scientists from more than 40 institutions worldwide. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  9. 9. 40 Plots       21 Countries       4.5 Million Trees       8,500 Species Source: Center for Tropical Forest Science CTFS MAP
  10. 10. Photos of volunteers on the fieldwork… <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>