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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Field Notes of M. Moynihan

The field notes of Martin Moynihan, first director of Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, have been a source of fascination for the Field Book Project since they were cataloged in 2013.  Moynihan was an evolutionary behaviorist who studied birds, primates, and cephalopods.  He had a unique way of recording observations that has inspired blog posts, a hand writing contest, Flickr set, and even an article during 2016 in Hakai Magazine.

Field notes on gulls, November 13, 1955, by Martin Moynihan, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2014-03311. 
A flamboyant and distinctive individual, Neal Griffith Smith, a colleague of 36 years, described him:
“When I first met him, he looked like Salvador Dali, for he sported an almost 5-inch waxed mustache, wore a Bond street suit, and carried a proper British umbrella. He remained an elegant though less dandy figure for the rest of his life…He had a reputation for rages and sudden changes of mood. In the early years he was always firing off his resignation because things were not going his way. It was pure theater. Martin was a gentleman in the true sense of the word, and perhaps the most intelligent person I ever met.” (p. 758)
Primate, 1960, by Martin Moynihan, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2014-0118. 
Thanks to a grant the Field Book Project received last year, Smithsonian Institution Archives is now digitizing and making Moynihan's and numerous other collections available online through Smithsonian Collections Search Center, Internet Archive, and Biodiversity Heritage Library, with more being made available each week.  New digitized content is made available on Smithsonian's Collections Search Center each month.  These are just a few examples of his photographs and field notes.  We encourage you to check out as more become available online.

Field notes on Alouatta palliata [South Pacific Blackish Howling Monkey] with drawing, August 30, 1961, by Martin Moynihan, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2014-03780. 
To learn more about Field Book Project's other field book collections, we encourage you to check out Smithsonian Collections Search Center that holds records for 628 field note collections covering the natural sciences.

Lesley Parilla, Cataloging Coordinator
Smithsonian Field Book Project

Neal Griffith Smith. (July 1998). “In Memoriam: Martin Humphrey Moynihan, 1928-1996.” American Ornithologist’s Union. Published by University of California Press. Accessed December 1, 2011 at

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