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This Week @ MHS

It feels as if spring is finally here to stay. Why not take advantage of the warming and stop by the Society for some public programs?

On Tuesday, 5 May, there is an Early American History seminar beginning at 5:15PM. "'All Manner of Slavery Servitude Labor Service Bondage and Hire': Varieties of Indian and African Unfreedom in Colonial New England and Jamaica" is presented by Linford Fisher of Brown University, with Jennifer Anderson of SUNY - Stonybrook providing comment. Seminars are free and open to the public, RSVP required. Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. 

Come by on Wednesday, 6 May, for a Brown Bag lunch talk featuring Charlotte Carrington-Farmer of Roger Williams University. Her talk, "Slave Horse: The Narragansett Pacer," examines the connections among people, colonnies, and nations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, using horses and the horse trade as a lens. 

And on Saturday, 9 May, stop by at 10:00AM for the History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. This 90-minute docent-led walk through the public rooms at the Society touches on the art, collections, history, and architecture of the MHS. The tour is free and open to the public with no need for reservations for individuals or small groups. Larger parties (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org. While you are here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition, "God Save the People! From the Stamp Act to Bunker Hill."

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 2 May, 2015, 3:14 PM

An American Woman in Egypt, 1914-1915: Asswan to Abu Simbel

Today we rejoin our anonymous female diarist as she journeys down the Nile in the winter of 1914-1915. You can read previous installments of this series here (introduction) here (Cairo to Aysut) and here (Aysut to Asswan).

What strikes me about the diary entries for 6-10 December 1914 is that while our American traveler is describing mural reliefs, shopping at outdoor markets, and visiting luxury resorts, Europe is settling in for the first winter of the Great War. During the first week of December, the Austrian army captured Belgrade and the British-Indian army was moving across Mesopotamia toward the Ottoman empire. The Great War YouTube series provides a nine-minute synopsis of the week’s events in newscast form.

Meanwhile, on the Nile:

Dec. 6. Arrived at Komumbu about 10  & walked to temple a few steps away. Temple dedicated to 2 deities, each deity had his own special worship & festivals so there are really 2 temples; the temple was divided & each side had its own gateways, doors & chapels. Crocodiles were worshipped here. Mural reliefs especially beautiful. Fine view of Nile country from temple. After lunch reached Asswan about 3. Took boats from ship & went first to Elephantine island to see the Nilometer & some ancient ruins; then sailed round island by Cataract Hotel to mainland & went through the Bazar with the [illegible word]. Got back to ship for late tea & had fine sunset coming back.

Dec 7. At 9.30 took boat to ships - visited shops & bought [illegible word], then went up to Cataract Hotel & looked at views. Got back just for lunch. Saw Eatons at hotel, who asked us to lunch P.M. At 2.30 went ashore with Miss Phelps took carriages & road out on desert to granite quarries & Bisharin camp where the natives danced for us on the sand. Saw horses raced [illegible] we had to get out and go in other carriages. Lunch in the [illegible word] . Got back for tea after 5. Then packed.

The entry of 7 December 1914 is the first time that local Egyptians, in this case the Beja people of southern Egypt and northern Sudan, have appeared in our narrator’s diary. The portrait of a group of anonymous Bisharin (a subgroup of the Beja people) which appears above, comes from the contemporaneous travel narrative Along the Nile with General Grant by Elbert E. Farman (1904). Farman’s description of the community which he and General Grant visited, like that of our diarist, situates the Bisharin as local color: “It is here that they are best seen in their real native character, habits and dress ... Here was the simplicity of nature” (220-221). The brief appearance of the Bisharin in our diarist’s narrative underscores the overall absence of interaction with local Egyptians. Like many tourists today, our diarist’s focus on the ancient history and landscape of the places she passes through renders the inhabitants an often indistinguishable part of the backdrop.

Dec 8. Had early breakfast & left boat at 8.30. Took boat to train & then trains  to [illegible phrase] & there we left our party & went on board the Prince Albert sailing at 9.30 After lunch visited temple of Dendur a very small temple built by Augustus. Later, almost at sunset, landed in boats & visited temple of Gerf-Hosein. Had magnesium light to see inside. In the center some pillars [illegible phrase] burial figures of Ramses II. [illegible phrase] statues of King there [illegible phrase]. Quite dark going back to boat.

Dec. 9. Arrived soon after breakfast at Wadi Sabou & went ashore to visit temple. An [illegible word] of sphinxes leading to the temple. Soon after lunch went ashore again to see temple of Amadu - then at sunset reached Kaer-[illegible word] & climbed to top of ruined fort or castle for the view. Stopped here for the night.

Dec. 10. Reached Abu Simbel just before lunch & after it went ashore & saw the temple - with 4 statues of Ramses II outside 66 ft high - then at the right temple dedicated to his wife. Hathor & his wife. The front ornamented with statues of the king, his wife & some of his children. After dinner went back to see it by moonlight.  Were called at 4.30 A.M. to see [illegible phrase] temple hewn in rocks, to 185 ft deep.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in our diarist’s travels, to be posted mid-June. And, as always, you are welcome to access the diaries for yourself here in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s library reading room

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 29 April, 2015, 1:00 AM

Extinction and Discovery, Denial and Redemption: The Brontosaurus Roller Coaster

The Brontosaurus is one of the most easily identified dinosaurs in popular culture. Just think about Little Foot, the main character in the animated movie, The Land Before Time, or about Fred Flintstone chowing down on a brontosaurus burger.

Despite this popularity, since 1903 this animal has officially been considered a non-entity. Rather than representing a singular genus of dinosaur, it was believed that the available fossils were actually those of a species of Apatosaurus, that archaeologists misidentified the bones. Thus, the lone species of the genus, Brontosaurus excelsus, was reassigned as A. excelsus.

Earlier this month, though, some members of the scientific community turned an about-face and accepted that the two genera of dinosaur, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus, are distinct enough from one another to receive individual classification. Once again, Brontosaurus is a valid term. You can read more about the debate in nomenclature and cladistics in the articles listed at the end of this post.

So what does this have to do with the MHS?

Within our holdings is a publication created by Othniel Charles Marsh, the man credited with original identification and description of both the Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus, among many others. The Dinosaurs of North America (1896) is an extract from the 16th annual report of the U.S. Geological Survey.

In this report, Marsh looks at three main time periods in turn, beginning with the Triassic period, then Jurassic, then Cretaceous. In each period he splits his descriptions among three distinct orders of dinosaurs: theropods, sauropods, and predentata. The first part of the book is devoted to narrative description. As he begins a new order of animal he gives brief and broad descriptions of typical characteristics and geographic dispersal. Then he gets more specific, identifying major families and genera within each order.

Theropods were typically bipedal and carnivorous. The most famous of all the theropod dinosaurs must be Tyrannosaurus rex. Marsh, however, looks at some of its smaller cousins that were located in North America, like the Allosaurs and Ceratosaurs.

 

 

Sauropods were large four-legged herbivores (mostly), characterized very generally by huge, barrel-shaped bodies with long slender tails and necks, and relatively small heads. It is into this order that the genera Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus fall. Other fairly well-known names in this type are the brachiosaurs and diplodocidae.

 

 

The third and most varied order handled by Marsh in this book are the predentata, now known more widely as ornithischia. This order contains the armored stegosaurs and ankylosaurs, the horned ceratopsians, and the duck-billed hadrosaurs.

 

Following all of this narrative information are dozens of plates featuring detailed drawings of skeletons and individual bones. All of the images in this post come from this volume and are a small sampling of those present.

Unfortunately, when searching our online catalog, ABIGAIL, this item is the only one that comes up under the subject Dinosaurs. Still this volume is wonderful look at the work which laid the foundation for our modern understanding of these long-extinct creatures. Do you have any favorites that appear here? What do you think of the potential resurrection of the Brontosaurus?

 

For further reading

- Choi, Charles. "The Brontosaurus is Back." Scientific American (2015). Accessed April 25, 2015. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-brontosaurus-is-back1/

- Naish, Darren. "That Brontosaurus Thing." Scientific American (2015). Accessed April 25, 2015. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/2015/04/24/that-brontosaurus-thing/

- Switek, Brian. "Back to Brontosaurus? The Dinosaur Might Deserve Its Own Genus After All." Smithsonian (2015). Accessed April 25, 2015.  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/back-brontosaurus-dinosaur-just-might-deserve-its-own-genus-species-science-180954892/?no-ist

comments: 1 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 12:01 PM

This Week @ MHS

On Tuesday, 28 April, we have an Immigration and Urban History seminar. "Due Credit: Chinese Workers and the Central Pacific Railroad" is presented by Manu Vimalassery of Barnard College, with Hidetaka Hirota of Columbia University providing comment. The talk begins at 5:15PM and is free and open to the public, RSVP required

And closing out the month on Wednesday, 29 April, there is an author talk with Jasmine Nicole Cobb, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. "Picture Freedom" explores the earliest illustrations of free Blacks and reveals the compliated route through visual culture toward a vision of African American citizenship. The talk begins at 6:00PM and is open to the public with a fee of $10 (no charge for Fellows and Members). There is a reception preceding the talk at 5:30PM. Registration is required, so please RSVP.  

Entering the new month, there are two events on Saturday, 2 May. First up, beginning at 10:00AM is the History and Collections of the MHS. This 90-minute docent-led tour explores all of the public spaces in the Society's home on Boylston Street and is free and open to the public. Larger parties (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org in advance. 

Also on 2 May is a rare Saturday evening event. May Day Mayday! is a conversation among three eminent historians - William Fowler, Nathaniel Philbrick, and Michael Tougias - sharing stories of catastrophes at sea. This program is open to the public and registration is required with a fee of $20 (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please RSVP here. There is a reception preceding the talk at 5:30PM with the event starting at 6:00PM. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 10:52 AM

This Week @ MHS

The Society is closed on Monday, 20 April, in observance of Patriot's Day. Good luck to the marathon runners!

On Tuesday, 21 April, there are three events taking place that all focus on comics and history. First, beginning at 2:00PM, is "Comic History: Making Your Own Comic History." This Family Day program for young historians, parents, and grandparents features historian John L. Bell telling the story of the riots that followed the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 from a child's point of view. Follwoing the talk, local comic book artists will help the young historians create their own historical comics. Finished products will be part of a temporary display. Registration is required at no cost; please RSVP

Then, at 6:00PM, join us for "Colonial Comics." Editor Jason Rodriguez, Fulcrum Publishing, will speak about the process of putting together a collection of twenty stories focusing on the colonial period from 1620 to 1750. Registration is required at no cost; please RSVP. A reception will precede the talk starting at 5:30PM. Following the event, at 7:30PM, MHS Associate Members (age 40 and under) are invited to join Mr. Rodriguez for Colonial Comics Happy Hour, a chance to continue the discussion about historical events as subject matter for comic books and graphic novels. The event will take place at a nearby restaurant. Registration required at no cost. Please call 617-646-0543 for more information. 

On Thursday, 23 April, join us for a History of Women and Gender seminar discussion. "Mildred Jefferson and the Right to Life Revolution of 1976" is presented by Jennifer Donnally of Hollins University with Sara L. Dubow, Williams College, providing comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. 

Finally, on Saturday, 25 April, there is a special event taking place at the Society starting at 9:00AM. "Massachusetts History Lab" is a program designed for students in grades 5-8 to learn more about the behind-the-scenes activities at one of the country's oldest organizations devoted to our nation's history. Registration is required at no cost; please RSVP. Students must register with an adult chaperone. For more information, contact the Education department at education@masshist.org or 617-646-0557. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 19 April, 2015, 12:00 AM

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