|Changing cover designs for Het Zeepaard from 1947-1990|
The articles in Het Zeepaard serve as a sort of collective field notebook, sharing scientific observations on topics like the distinguishing characteristics of dolphins and porpoises, and advising on the proper method for noting sightings on index cards. Strandgroep members recorded the natural phenomena they saw while strolling along the coastline individually or taking part in group expeditions, including organized day trips on the North Sea in fishing boats.
Although the details contained in Het Zeepaard might seem to be of limited interest because of the passage of time and their very localized nature, the publication is notable for its close examination of a changing coastal environment and for illustrating how the mostly amateur scientists collaborated in documenting the phenomena they saw. In some ways, Het Zeepaard could be considered a forerunner of today’s more-broadly focused citizen science projects like iNaturalist.org where everyone is invited to submit their observations of the natural world.
|Illustration of trawling for sea creatures from a 1941 issue of Het Zeepaard|
The Smithsonian Libraries’ copy of Het Zeepaard was acquired in 1992 by C.W. “Bill” Hart, a staff member of the National Museum of Natural History’s Division of Crustacea, through L.B. Holthuis, a colleague in the Netherlands’ Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum in Leiden who got the publication from a widow of one of the founding editors. Since this copy of Het Zeepaard is nearly a complete run, including its fragile early issues, and access to the original printed edition is quite scarce (other copies are in the American Museum of Natural History and a few primarily European libraries), the set has been added to the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History. To the lasting credit of Het Zeepaard’s “young, enthusiastic amateurs” (as Holthuis called them), their carefully-recorded observations will be preserved for consultation by generations of zoologists and other scientists interested in environmental changes over time in the coastal habitat of the North Sea region.
Het Zeepaard. [Netherlands: Strandgroep, 1941-]. Call number qQH159 .Z44 SCNHRB Cullman Library
--Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Libraries