Frontier Science: Providing Access to the Early Scientific History of the American West in the Collections of the California Academy of Sciences


The proposed project focuses on the works of scientists in the American West during the late 19th century when California was experiencing tremendous growth. The “wild West” was disappearing and scientific exploration was flourishing. The project will focus on ten collections representing scientific work at the Academy and throughout the Pacific Rim:
Hans Herman Behr (1818-1904, Academy conservator, entomologist, botanist), Lyman Belding (1829-1917, Academy ornithologist), James Blake (1815-1893, Academy vice-president and geologist), Walter E. Bryant (1861-1905, Academy ornithologist), George Davidson (1825-1911, Academy president, geodesist, engineer), Carl H. Eigenmann (1863-1927, Academy member and ichthyologist), Gustavus A. Eisen (1847-1940, Academy curator, naturalist, horticulturalist), William Otto Emerson, William Hammond Hall (1846-1934, Academy member and California's first State Engineer), and John VanDenburgh (1872-1924, Academy curator and herpetologist). Highlights of the ten collections include early U.S. Coast and Geodetic surveys, early examples of stereoscopic photography, documentation of Alaskan exploration, personal diaries of frontier life, hand-drawn maps and sketches, manuscripts, and ephemera from the collectors' field work. Five of these collectors are represented in Academy research specimen collections: Eigenmann, Belding, Bryant, Eisen (including type specimens) and VanDenburgh.


Cataloging Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



California Academy of Sciences


  • Heather Yager

Collection Size

130 linear feet

Date Range

1853 - 1906

Geographic Scope

The project focuses on the Pacific Rim, with particular emphasis on California, Oregon, Alaska, Yukon, and the Pacific slopes of South America.