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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Whales, dolphins and porpoises

"Figure 8b.—Swimming, blowing, and diving characteristics of humpback, bowhead, right, and sperm whales," from: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of the Western North Atlantic by Stephen Leatherwood, David Caldwell and Howard Winn (NOAA technical report NMFS CIRC-396), now available at Project Gutenberg.

Although a very detailed, scientific publication, it includes many photographic, line, and spotting silhouette illustrations, of interest to anyone learning how to identify these animals.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Approachable astronomy books

The Guardian has published another interesting Top 10 reading list, Stuart Clark's top 10 approachable astronomy books. I'm delighted to see the second and third books on the list, Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, and The Book Nobody Read : chasing the revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicusby Owen Gingerich.

I found both books thoroughly engaging through their approaches to their subjects: Galileo's story through his relationship with his daughter, and Copernicus' through Gingerich's study of the history of his famous book. Besides enjoying such well-written history, I was reminded of the methods we use to construct history--how talented authors turn the evidence of letters, books, etc., into these stories of our past.

As much as the study of astronomy helps us discern our position in the universe, these well-written histories help us discern our position in time. I'm looking forward to reading more of the books on this list.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Go for the brewing objects, stay for the canoe

The small but dense exhibit, "99 Bottles of Beer: Global Brewing Traditions 2500 B.C. – Present" brought me to the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, and it's a wonderful museum to visit. (The objects in the beer exhibit are fascinating--everything from ancient brewing devices to modern cap lifters, from all over the world.) The museum is small, admission is free, and it's packed with exhibits, including "The Conservator’s Art: Preserving Egypt’s Past" which explains in detail differing conservation treatments, how they conserve objects, and just how much such operations cost.

A real treat, though, is a Yurok canoe from 1902 in the California gallery. Surrounded by photographs and explanatory text about the canoe, it's lovely to see in person. Since the museum is so small, there's a limited amount of interpretation, however UC Berkeley's Calisphere offers a lot of history, and the culture section of the official Yurok Tribe website provides more cultural context--worth reading before making a visit.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Harry Monahan carving scroll on the C.A. ThayerThe University of California's Calisphere describes itself as, "A world of primary sources and more." If you're looking for specific, primary resources, the search box (on the upper right of the site) returns easily navigated results under a button bar that lets you choose images, texts, or websites, with an additional "search within results" box for easy limiting. And although the site is sponsored by the University of California, it includes resources from many repositories, large and small, and the resources are not limited to those relating to California history--for example, the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, UCLA Hammer Museum, has contributed images from Hiroshige's Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji.

A great strength of the site, though, are the collections for educators which lead to sites external to Calisphere, such as UC San Diego's California Explores the Oceans--Expeditions site, as well as Calisphere sites on topics like Richmond Shipyards.

As for maritime resources, the site contains thousands of items related to boats, ships, shipbuilding, etc. And although the site is rich, it's not comprehensive--it doesn't contain all of the resources from the contributing repositories--it's a curated collection, and a great place to start one's research.