At two universities, students work to preserve entomological history

At Kansas State University, students raise funds to ensure the preservation of a set of silk teaching aids used by famed entomologist CV Riley at KSU in the late 1800s. (Photo by Jacqueline Maillé)

By Jacqueline Maille

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series provided by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other articles by and for entomology students Here has entomology today.

Jacqueline Maille

Jacqueline Maille

Students and student clubs play an important role in entomology departments. They are a social outlet for graduate and undergraduate students, and many clubs engage in public outreach, professional development for their members, and more. A few clubs go the extra mile to leave a lasting impact on the pitch.

One of these impacts is the preservation of natural and entomological history. Two ongoing entomology student club projects at Kansas State University and the University of Wisconsin are paving the way for student-led initiatives to ensure historic entomology works are preserved for generations future. At KSU, students are raising money to ensure the preservation of a set of silk teaching tools used by famed entomologist CV Riley at KSU in the late 1800s. Meanwhile, at UW, students in entomology are working to preserve zoological education wall maps from the early 1900s. Recently, I spoke with Cameron Osborne, a Ph.D. student at KSU and president of the Popenoe Entomology Club (of which I am president), and Jacki Whisenant, a master’s student in entomology at UW, for their thoughts on these works, the effort they put into preserving them, its impact on them, and some general tips for preserving the story.

Resume Riley Teaching Aids

Kansas State University (KSU) entomology students speak lovingly about how the basement of Waters Hall (or “dungeon”) holds secrets, mysteries and, with luck, treasures. Several years ago, Sonny Ramaswamy, Ph.D., head of the Department of Entomology at the time, discovered 69 silk teaching aids used during Charles Valentine (CV) Riley’s guest lecture time at KSU in 1868 to 1877. The discovery prompted the need to house and preserve these treasurers in the University Archives and Special Collections of the KSU Library.

The Popenoe Entomology Club gained access to digitized versions of Riley’s pieces in 2018 and began selling reprints for fundraising. This money created a fund for the preservation needs of the club’s CV Riley Special Collection, in addition to supporting the club. In the summer of 2021, the club was in the middle of its centenary and club chairman Cameron Osborne asked leaders: “How should we, the leaders of the club, want to celebrate and honor our history? I told the story of the Riley prints and suggested that we could start a restoration project in conjunction with the library.

During National Archives Month in October, we had established a collaboration with Cliff Hight, the head of KSU’s Archives and Special Collections Department, whose team invited conservation expert Kenneth Bé to visit and assess methodically the Riley collection. Bé documented the condition of each piece and the attention needed for proper restoration and conservation. At least 20 were in critical need, and the club began fundraising toward a goal of $10,000 to begin the conservation process.

To inspire and engage the club in this overwhelming restoration commitment, a private tour of the works has been organized for club members to experience and appreciate the effort. A club committee was formed and opened a donation account to the University Foundation, which received over $1,000 for the project in the first week alone! However, donations have slowed and the club is looking for ways to boost this business. The club has explored opportunities for external funding and support and will present a coloring book at the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada and British Columbia, which will feature some of Riley’s work. . Sales of this coloring book will benefit the Restoration Fund.

Zoological Teaching Wall Charts

While at the University of Wisconsin, Jacki Whisenant worked at the UW Zoological Museum, where zoological education wall charts from the early 1900s are housed in the Historical Records Collection. An on-campus task force, “Friends of the University of Wisconsin Libraries,” is dedicated to the preservation of special collections and has a small prize pool to award grants for special projects.

Whisenant and his museum colleagues developed a grant proposal in conjunction with an on-campus preservation lab that specializes in maintaining special collections on paper. Over the course of approximately six months, the group wrote and received the grant, then assessed the damage of the instructional cards, performed an experimental cleaning of three cards, and further stabilized the work.

However, a long-term storage solution for maps, which have been stabilized as flat preps rather than rolled maps, now needs a better flat file that can accommodate them because the temporary flat file is too small for one of the cards. Thus, work is continuing to ensure the proper conservation of the works.

What historic preservation means for the students involved

How did the students feel about being part of an entomological preservation effort, and what impact did it have on them?

“Sometimes I fall into the mindset ‘what’s new, what’s next?'” Osborne says. “Working with these historic pieces gave me a new perspective and appreciation for history. I was inspired to delve into our university archives to learn more about the founding of our club, which turned 100 l It sounds cliché, but I feel truly honored to be part of something with deep historical ties that is also so relevant to our field. [entomology]. Being able to interact with CV Riley’s impressions in person was on a whole new level. We had the opportunity to see the colors and feel the material. It’s one of those moments you’ll never forget.

I agree with Cameron; I will never forget this experience. I hope these efforts will encourage others to be inspired and immersed in entomological history. I feel passionate about preserving historical elements, so that they are not erased. Works like Riley’s Teaching Aids allow me to peek into the differing historical and cultural expectations of an entomological educator.

Whisenant agrees. “The passion for the natural sciences and the painstaking work involved in maintaining museum collections of entomology and zoology has allowed me to experience writing a small grant and following the progress of preservation to report the results,” she said.

I also asked Osborne and Whisenant about the impact of this preservation effort on their college entomology clubs.

“As I researched these works, I began to wonder what would happen to my work in the next 10, 20, or 100 years,” says Osborne. “That was an interesting question about my professional contribution to the historical record. I don’t think a group of students will be looking at my notes 100 years from now, but I’m interested nonetheless in being more determined in organizing my work. It’s great that the club is leading this preservation and restoration effort. I am thrilled to see students taking the lead in this project with the support of our department. It is also great to see our club gaining notoriety through this effort.

From my perspective, this preservation effort pushed me out of my comfort zone and caused me to network in ways I never imagined I could. For the Popenoe Entomology Club, I have seen the enthusiasm of members grow, especially in volunteering their time and art for the new coloring book. We are lucky to have such outstanding members in our club!

Whisenant says it best, though: “This experience was a fun first step towards preserving a collection.”

Ideas and tips

For other entomology students interested in preserving entomological work, some advice would be to identify work that is worth preserving, recruit others who wish to preserve it, collaborate with experts who know how to preserve correctly the historical work and, of course, to find funding.

Is there a work or piece already known to have historical significance or a relationship to someone, an entomologist, important in your institution? Otherwise, October is American Archives Month, a great time to visit a library or museum archive and rediscover or identify pieces in need of restoration or preservation that have entomological significance. The passion and drive to facilitate a preservation or restoration project could be enhanced by talking to experts such as librarians, museum curators or historical societies. Preservation requires the generation of funds, which may seem difficult, but fortunately the possibilities for support can come from university, state grants, national grants, society grants or private donations.

I hope you find inspiration in the efforts of these students and are encouraged to participate in preserving entomological history for the enjoyment and education of generations to come.

Jacqueline Maille is a doctorate. entomology candidate at Kansas State University, current vice president of the KSU Popenoe Entomology Club, and North Central Branch representative on the student affairs committee of the Entomological Society of America. Email Jacqueline at [email protected], or for more information about the Popenoe Entomology Club, email [email protected]

Mesh portrait photo by David Mayes Photography

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