The Christmas Bird Count

Author: Heather Farrington, Zoology Curator One of the largest and longest-running citizen science programs in the country is the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). In the late 1800s, “Side Hunts” were a common holiday tradition. The goal of these competitive hunting outings was to see who could shoot the most animals (particularly birds and mammals) in a given period of time. Before long, people began to notice that bird populations were declining. On Christmas Day in 1900, an ornithologist by the name of Frank M. Chapman started a tradition of simply counting birds, rather than killing them. And so began the annual Christmas Bird Count. Throughout the nation, there are 15-mile wide, circular territories established for the count. Each territory is intensively surveyed for one day sometime between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. Volunteer efforts are coordinated, and data are collected and compiled, by a […]

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Touring Rookwood Pottery with Cincinnati Heritage Programs

Author: Chris Dobbs, Copywriter/Editor Chances are, if you step into an old-enough house in Cincinnati, Ohio, it features Rookwood Pottery. Whether it’s a colorful pot passed down, a kitchen backsplash lined with avian tiles or a fireplace’s hearth, Rookwood Pottery has left its mark on Cincinnati’s – and the world’s – cupboards, homes and monuments. Rookwood Pottery was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Storer. One of the first female-owned manufacturing companies in the United States, Rookwood set several early examples of what would be popular trends. It was one of the first ceramics companies to hire a chemist, Karl Langenbeck, who contributed to several popular glazes for decorative and everyday use. Its designs were also early examples of American Japonism, the study of Japanese art and style. Rookwood artist Kataro Shiayamadani’s work won the company the Grand Prize at the 1900 Paris Exposition, […]

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DNA Sequencing Urban Artifact’s Union Terminal Beer

Author: Emily Imhoff, Collections Manager, Zoology In late 2016, Urban Artifact brewers collected yeast from Union Terminal grounds. A few months later, at a 21+ Curiocity event, they premiered a new, fruity brew, Union Terminal Bock, made from the National Historic Landmark’s yeast! As a part of the event, we were asked in zoology to determine the yeast’s species. This is how we did it. We actually extracted the DNA from the yeast and analyzed it to determine the species. All DNA is made up of a series of nucleotides, of which there are four types: A, T, C and G. We looked at the sequence of the nucleotides of a certain region of the DNA that is known to function like a barcode that identifies different yeast species. Then we compared the sequence of the Union Terminal yeast’s “barcode” to a database of […]

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[Carbon] Dating in the 21st Century

Author: Bob Genheimer, Curator of Archaeology As an archaeologist, one of the most frequent questions that I am asked is “how do you know how old something is?” There are many different answers to that question, mostly depending on what exactly we are trying to date. Knowing how old something is, even if the age is approximate, is important, because without controlling for time, archaeologists can say little about the culture they are studying. In general terms, archaeologists rely on two methods of dating – relative and absolute. As the name implies, relative dating relies on a known relationship between the object you want to date and other objects or features in the same or similar context. So, when we pick up a corner-notched spearpoint with a ground base, we know that it is Early Archaic (ca. 8000-6000 BC) in age because large numbers of […]

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Preservation Tip: Dealing With Insect Damage

Author: Scott Gampfer, Associate Vice President for Collections and Preservation Insects are attracted to materials containing cellulose. Paper-based collections (documents, books, newspapers) contain cellulose and need to be protected from insect attack. Storing collections in cool dry spaces is preferable because there is a link between higher temperature and relative humidity, and increased insect activity. Years ago, the library received a donation of bound newspapers including this volume from the 1830s. One of the volumes exhibited evidence of insect damage on the outside front cover (see image 1 below). Portions of the decorative covering paper were abraded and the lower right-hand corner bore telltale insect holes. When the volume was opened, this is the sight that greeted the librarians (see image 2). It turns out that the volumes had been stored on shelving against a basement or garage wall and termites had been able […]

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A 19th-Century Cincinnati-Manufactured Picture Exhibitor

Author: Scott Gampfer, Associate Vice President for Collections and Preservation Introduced to the United States from Europe in the late 1850s, the carte-de-visite or calling card photographic format soon became wildly popular. The small size and inexpensive nature of the card images brought them within reach of ordinary people. Since the images were printed from a glass plate negative, it was possible for customers to get as many copies of an image as desired. It also became popular to collect carte-de-visite images of celebrities and exotic or famous locales. So popular was demand for carte-de-visite images that the phenomenon was sometimes called “cartomania.” The idea of creating photographic albums also became popular, and suppliers sold albums specifically designed to hold cartes-de-visite. One inventor, Charles Robinson of Massachusetts, received a patent in April 1865 for a clever device that allowed the viewing of dozens of […]

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