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Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Shout Out to South Dakota

Recently, at a meeting for the people who bring you this blog, we had an in depth and revealing conversation about our blog traffic. Using Google Analytics as our source of stats, we discovered that people from all but one state in America have visited this blog. So, in effort to reach some of the great people of South Dakota, I have decided to share some of the state’s wonderful connections, both historical and contemporary, to the Smithsonian:

A piece of South Dakota state history is currently on exhibition in the National Museum of Natural History’s Dig It! The Secrets of the Soil exhibit. The State Soil of South Dakota, Houdek, is featured in the exhibit that shows the complex world of dirt. Exhibits at the National Museum of the American Indian have been enriched by artifacts donated by South Dakota Native American tribes.

In November of 1962, the National Museum of Natural History displayed an exhibit on early big game hunters of the Black Hills. The display was a part of the larger North American Archaeology Exhibit. Exhibit cases contained tools and photographs from the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming, which were a favorite camping and wintering ground for the mounted bison-hunting Indians.

Smithsonian associates and scientists have explored South Dakota in their search for scientific specimens. Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, a geologist with the U.S. Geological survey, conducted geological surveys of the Black Hills region and other western territories from the 1850s until his death in 1887. Hayden traveled through all of the western territories extensively and collected fossils in the Badlands located in southwest South Dakota, east of the Black Hills. He was an associate of the Smithsonian's first full-time paleontologist Fielding B. Meek. Meek accompanied Hayden to the Badlands and often worked on specimens collected by the Hayden surveys. Additionally, Hayden collaborated with the Smithsonian’s Megatherium Club, a group of scientists who lived in the Smithsonian’s Castle. Many of the specimens collected by the Hayden surveys now are researched and cared for at the Smithsonian.

South Dakota has helped train some of our staff. Smithsonian entomologist John Merton Aldrich graduated from South Dakota State University. Aldrich increased his skills by working for the South Dakota State Agricultural Experiment Station before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1919. Once in Washington, Aldrich was hired as the Custodian of Diptera (commonly known as flies) and an Associate Curator of Insects at the Smithsonian’s United States National Museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History.

Some other collectors of the South Dakota region include Paul and Esther Aplin, geologist with the U.S. Geological Association who contributed a large collection of well samples, oriented thin sections, and microslides of Mesozoic and Cenozoic larger foraminifera, to the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Paleobiology.

Finally, for some Smithsonian staff South Dakota is home. Robert P. Multhauf, historian of science, at the Smithsonian’s United States National Museum was born in Sioux City, South Dakota. Multhauf began his career in 1954 in the Division of Engineering and Industries. He was appointed Head Curator of the Department in 1957 and later became Director of the National Museum of History and Technology, now known as the National Museum of American History.

Whether it is collections, expeditions, publications or staff, there are a myriad of ways that South Dakota has enhanced the Smithsonian Museums, to find out more ways South Dakota contributes to the Institution check out the Collections Search Center.

Images: South Dakota stamp courtesy of the National Postal Museum; Exhibit image, Hayden Survey Drawing, and Aldrich image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.