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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Researching Druids

I recently researched a scientist by the name of Druid Wilson in order to create his EAC-CPF record-- EAC schema provides a way of delineating a collection creator's biographical details. I do this type of research because our collection creators commonly don't have archival collections with finding aids or published biographies.
Specimens collected by Druid Wilson in the Paleobiology Collections of the National Museum of Natural History. Clockwise from top left: Maretia carolinensis Kier, 1997 (PAL 398338), Rhyncholampas gouldii newbernensis Kier, 1997 (PAL 398324), Echinocyamus wilsoni Kier, 1997 (PAL 398476), and Psammechinus carolinensis Kier, 1997 (PAL 398321)
When I began my research, I figured I had three details in my favor. He worked for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), his name is unique, and he published articles with USGS. Given that he was published, worked for a major federal agency, and had an unusual name, I thought finding basic details would be relatively easy. How many Druid Wilsons could there be? 

According to my research, there may be more than one, and both had a demonstrated interest in paleontology. What are the chances?

I started with my favorite online platforms: VIAF, Google, JStor, and through Smithsonian Libraries. I found a tantalizing bit of information in a JStor article about proposed members in Journal of Paleontology from September 1949:

"WILSON, DRUID, Frostproof, Fla. B.S., 1929, Southern College, Lakeland, Fla. Citrus grower and amateur paleontologist. Interested in Tertiary invertebrata. Proposed by Katherine V. W. Palmer and G. D. Harris."

I checked and found that life dates that appeared to be for possibly two different Druid Wilsons, approximately 1906 - 2002. My confusion was due to the locations listed in Ancestry. It appeared as if one Druid lived his entire life in Florida and the other didn't. Most long term USGS staff live in the Washington DC area. Florida didn't make sense. However, as I began to catalog his papers, I found a significant portion of them covered the paleontology of Florida. I found a listing for a Druid Wilson in Alexandria, VA, which made more sense geographically.

If I could trust the bits I found online, I could say he was born around 1906, lived in Florida, primarily Frostproof. He earned a B.S. from Florida Southern College. Druid was originally a citrus grower who developed an interest in paleontology, and later worked for U.S. Geological Survey. He married Ethel Adams Wax in 1941 (source: Florida Department of Health), and passed away around 2002.

I would love to think that we have the field notes of a former citrus grower. I want to find out how he became fascinated by paleontology. However, I don't even know Druid Wilson's middle initial to confirm his identity. If there are two Druids, their life dates are also similar.

To add to this mystery, I found a Smithsonian form for official travel, listing travel to Frostproof, Florida in 1978 in volume 7 of his notes on Florida!

With more time and research, I may be able to determine that they are indeed the same person. This brings up a difficult question of balancing time with other work responsibilities. I am personally tantalized by the potential story, but will have to leave the bread crumbs for a future researcher or staff member. The details I leave behind must be definitive and verifiable, so that the EAC record makes an excellent trail of crumbs.

Lesley Parilla, Cataloger
The Field Book Project

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