An unexpected aspect that has caught my interest while cataloguing is the names of collectors and identifiers. For example, there are hundreds of beetles in the museum’s entomology collection. Many of these insects were collected and identified in the 1920’s and 30’s by G.S. Brooks and J.B. Wallis, but also by R.A. Scrapneck, McKillop and Preston (both with initials W.B.), R.E. Wrigley and others in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Even without being able to put a face to them, these names have begun to stick in my head. I wanted to know more about these people, and found myself searching out information about collectors.
One of the hallmarks of a good database is standardization. It is difficult to search out information if entries are not done in a particular manner. At times an inconsistency with first initials can become explainable after a little research. I learned from museum records that W. Preston was actually a former curator of the museum, and was generally called Bill the more familiar form of William. So beetle collectors B. Preston and W. Preston turned out to actually be the same person. Similarly, Bob Wrigley is R. E. Wrigley as the “R” stands for Robert.
Not all collectors are professional, however. Sometimes amateurs have donated excellent collections to the museum. While updating some botanical data, I began searching out the full name of collectors who are frequently only designated by initials. Mrs. A. Simpson turned out to be Mrs. Alonzo Simpson. Alonzo, however, is her husband’s name, and so it would not really be correct to abbreviate her name to A. Simpson.
Any name searches I did only yielded more Mrs. Alonzo Simpson references. Luckily, a chance conversation with a long-time museum volunteer, helped me to learn that Mrs. Simpson’s daughter Mildred used to volunteer at the museum. After some further investigation on-line I found obituaries for Eva Mildred Bowie (Simpson) and her sister, Florence Claire Lloyd (Simpson) which both mentioned Alonzo and Lillian Simpson as their parents. And a 1921 census confirmed their mother’s full name to be Lillian Rose Simpson. And so there I had it, the elusive full name of Mrs. Simpson.
Another Manitoban female collector is J.M. Walker. In this case, J. is the correct first initial, as it stands for Jennifer. She did a lot of collecting in the late 50’s, while working on her Ph.D. in Botany. She was a lecturer and later on a full professor at the University of Manitoba. J.M. Shay is the same person, as Jennifer Walker married Tom Shay and took his last name, so specimens collected later by her are done by J.M. Shay.
This is also especially interesting when historical names come up. The museum has in its collections plant and animal specimens collected by the Criddle family. Both N. and S. Criddle have contributions. Percy Criddle and his family homesteaded in Manitoba in the late 1800’s in the Aweme area. Despite the lack of a formal education when younger, several of Percy’s children became expert naturalists. They kept detailed records and collected a variety of specimens. In fact, Talbot, Stuart, Evelyn and Norman Criddle all have “naturalist” noted on their headstones.
Dr. Neil Holliday, a Manitoba entomologist, has written an excellent history of the Criddle-Vane family which is available online: http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/51/criddle_n.shtml
And I wonder what other Manitoba history is yet to be uncovered by researching a name?
Karen Sereda, Natural History Cataloguer