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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Photo Hunt for History

From 1946-1966, Alexander Wetmore, ornithologist and sixth Smithsonian Secretary, and Watson M. Perrygo, taxidermist with the United States National Museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History, traveled annually to Panama on scientific expeditions. On each journey, Wetmore and Perrygo extensively documented and collected the birds of Panama. Wetmore, an avid photographer, tracked his trips with his camera, culminating in a collection of 24 photo albums. The Wetmore Panama images, housed in the Smithsonian Institution Archives, are frequently used in websites, articles and for general research. Most recently, Stanley Heckadon-Moreno, Director of Communications and Public Programs at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, has utilized Wetmore’s images, Wetmore’s Oral history, Perrygo’s Oral history and Perrygo’s films from the expeditions to write a monthly “Then and Now” feature in Epocas Tercera Era, a Panamanian cultural magazine. His articles allow readers to see the transformation of remote regions of Panama over the past 60 years. The stories also highlight the special relationships Wetmore and Perrygo formed with local scientists and villagers in Panama. Due to the articles’ popularity, Heckadon found two of these individuals. Armagedón and Ratibor Hartmann, brothers employed by the Gorgas Memorial Institute of Tropical Medicine in Panama, who worked as guides for Wetmore during his expeditions. Currently, Heckadon is conducting interviews with the Hartmann brothers, now in their 80s, and uses the images to elicit memories of the Hartmanns’ time with Wetmore. According to Heckadon, the brothers remember Wetmore and his wife vividly and are enjoying the images of their past adventures.

Pictured: Armagedón Hartmann and Vicente Alvarez, 1956 in the collection of Wetmore Panama Images


  1. Courtney,
    These are great photographs and such an amazing collection! I especially like the story of the brothers connecting with the writer of the article, and reliving their time with Wetmore through the photographs.
    Great post!

  2. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has specimens donated and collected by Alexander Wetmore. Take a quick peak from here: