Founder’s Week: Academy Publications

Dawn Roberts, Collections Manager
January 10, 2014

Sharing scientific knowledge and initiating discussions about nature and science are important facets of the work we do at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences. This happens through our educational activities, exhibits, talks given by our staff, and our citizen science programs, to name a few. Up until the mid 1990s, the Academy also published several of its own periodical series with original research.

The Academy began its endeavor into publishing in the mid 1860s, which helped establish the Academy as a scientific institution. Our first publications were the Proceedings (1866) to and Transactions (1867 to 1870) series, which provided information to members about museum meetings, descriptions of new species, guides to regional species, and scientific papers. There are few actual hard copies of these remaining.

The series Bulletin of the Natural History Survey (1896 to 1927) contained scientific papers on topics specifically about the Chicago area, including “The Higher Fungi of the Chicago Region” by William Moffatt and “The Paleontology of the Niagraran Limestone in the Chicago Area” by Stuart Weller. “An Annotated Flora of the Chicago Area” by Herman Silas Pepoon, published in 1927, was a major reference for local plants for decades.

The Bulletin, started in the 1880s, was a venue for scientific papers for any location and included authors such as William Higley (botany), Frank Baker (malacology), Orlando Park (entomology), and Howard Gloyd (herpetology). This is the Academy’s longest running periodical, with its last issue released in 1995.

The Special Publications series (1902 to 1959) reflected longer research papers and scientific papers. Howard Gloyd, a herpetologist and director of the Academy, authored “The Rattlesnakes, genera Sistrurus and Crotalus: A study in zoogeography and evolution” in 1940. “William Dreuth’s Study of Bird Migration in Lincoln Park, Chicago” was completed by Charles Clark and Margaret Nice in 1950; the Academy’s archives contain Dreuth’s original field notes of his thirty years of bird observations.

Bulletin Nat Sur

The Chicago Naturalist (1938 to 1948) and the Natural History Miscellanea series (1946 to 1982) provided shorter articles on natural history topics such as scientific collecting, wave erosion, ornithology, and naturalist biographies and served as a venue for sharing the Academy’s field activities and museum programs with its membership. Science Notes (1959 to 1966) were short pamphlet-style publications; “How weather affects bird migration” and “Ancient beaches and dunes in Lincoln Park” are just a couple of the titles in this series.

Through the Academy’s publications, readers learned about nature in Illinois – such as glacial markings found in areas throughout Illinois, amphibians and reptiles of the Chicago region, and how to identify local birds – but they were also exposed to information about ecosystems in Texas, New Jersey, and Florida, giving readers the chance to learn about other regions of the nation.

In 2008, we began our Publications Scanning Project to preserve these documents and broaden their accessibility. Each of the Academy’s publications are scanned and the digital file cleaned and run through an optical character recognition (OCR) program to create a searchable PDF. For more information about this project or a PDF copy of a publication that has been scanned, please contact the Museum Collections & Archives. Hard copies of some publications are still available as well; contact Collections staff for more information. For a complete listing of Academy publications, click here.

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