MVZ Archives

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The MVZ houses an extensive archive of field notebooks, photographs, annotated maps, and personal papers that date to the Museum’s founding in 1908. These historical and present-day materials provide records of expeditions, research and field conditions during the 20th and 21st century. They are used by scientists, historians, and the public to examine environmental and societal change.

Using MVZ Archival material

The Archives may be visited by appointment only between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment.

Please refer to the Services and Use Fees page for information on how researchers can request reproductions or license MVZ archival material.

MVZ Archive Project

In January 2012, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology was awarded a three-year grant from the Council for Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to catalog and make more accessible its hidden archives of field notes, correspondence, annotated maps, images, and artwork. This exciting project provided the foundation for our archives collection, providing the historical, ecological, legal, and sociological context for the  specimens that comprise our collections. Read more about the CLIR grant here. In addition, Archivist Christina Fidler wrote an article on our project here in the newsletter Museum Archivist (PDF-vol 23(1) Summer 2013).

We have developed and follow these guidelines for our processing and digitization efforts:

Collection Summaries

Field Notebook collection 

The Archives contain over 700 bound volumes that encompass the work of more than 250 investigators. These books contain information on specimens and species’ observations that are not recorded elsewhere in the Museum’s catalogs. In addition to text, the field note volumes are filled with photographs, drawings, and annotated maps that highlight early collecting localities and associated habitats.

Thus far, over 90,000 pages of field notes (of an estimated 100,000 pages) have been scanned and are available online. Notes are searchable by author, year, and section title, but future developments and ongoing data capture will enable broader search capabilities.

Historic Photograph collection
Condor on Herman T. Bohlman's knee. Portland, Oregon, 1906.
Condor on Herman T. Bohlman’s knee. Portland, Oregon, 1906.

We have cataloged over 15,000 black-and-white and color prints, film and glass negatives, lantern slides, 2×2 color slides, and modern digital images. Like the field notes, these images document species’ presence, research activities, and changing environmental conditions over the past 100 years. Special photo collections include ca. 535 images of California Condors, Joseph Dixon photos from Alaska (1913-1918), Otto Emerson photos of animals and habitats (1887-1907), and ca. 1000 small prints and postcards from C. Hart Merriam.

The museum’s collection of ~13,000 historic prints have been scanned for archiving and access. Each print contains two scanned versions: a lower resolution tiff (300 ppi) that shows the image mounted on a data card; and a higher resolution tiff (1200 ppi) of the image without the card. Photographs have been processed into three additional files for online viewing: lower resolution jpeg, thumbnail, and tiled jpeg.

Annotated Map Collection
Annotated topoquad “Saline Valley” 1937


The Archives contain  about 480 maps dating from 1889, mostly of areas in California, Alaska, and other western US states. These maps were used by early researchers while in the field, and thus are marked with original routes, collecting localities, and notes about sites and the specimens collected. Much of these annotated maps were used to update our modern collection database and have been the basis of resurvey efforts.




Historical Correspondence

The MVZ Archives house all correspondence from the date of its founding to the present, with the exception of letters between Annie M. Alexander and Joseph Grinnell regarding establishment of the Museum (housed in the UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library).  Letters written from the field often provide natural history observations, while those relating to Museum business offer a unique perspective into development of wildlife policies and practices and professional organizations in the early decades of the 20th century. Our historical files (1908 to 1930, when the Museum moved to the Life Sciences Building) are archived separately from other correspondence in the collection and encompass ca. 54 linear feet (ca. 2000 file folders).

List of Historic Correspondence



The MVZ Archives maintains a collection of ca. 300 items of color and black & white original artwork in various media, created as illustrations for books and articles by often Museum authors. This collection includes original works by Allan Brooks, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Ernest Thompson Seton, Charles R. Knight, Charles Schultz and Robert Stebbins. The Archives also stores original intaglio prints dated 1798 of animals from the voyages to the New World under de la Perouse, 1785-1788, and original Audubon lithographs dated 1847. Some artwork (e.g., paintings by Robert Stebbins for plates to the Field Guide to Western Amphibians and Reptiles) are associated with voucher specimens in the Museum. This material has significant value as a collection of scientific illustrations.