Reminder for Jan. 24th! My second class in Los Angeles while I am away for my awesome residency 😊 This is a special class at the Moore Lab of Zoology at Occidental College. HALF of the ticket sales are going towards renovations for the lab and their collection! This is an amazing opportunity and you would be helping the lab! Along with the class you will get a tour of the facility. Tickets available on my site! 👍 #moorezoologylab #mlz #moorelabratoryofzoology #zoology #preservation #losangeles #occidentalcollege #ca #california #taxidermy #taxidermyclasses #taxidermyclass #taxidermyworkshop #taxidermyteacher #taxidermyinstruction #learntaxidermy #afterlifeanatomy #katieinnamorato #taxidermyinstructor #oddities #roguetaxidermy #taxidermist #taxidermyinstructor #taxidermyworkshops afterlifeanatomy(at) (at


PEP (Persons of Exceptional Prominence) Spot Light:  Lieutenant (JG) Harriet Pickens (1909-1969) & Ensign Frances Wills (1916-1998)

In honor of African American Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the first two African American women who were commissioned as officers in the US Navy.  Lieutenant Pickens and Ensign Wills were commissioned in the United States Navy on December 21, 1944.

Lieutenant Harriet Pickens, a public health administrator with a master’s degree in Political Science from Columbia University, was the daughter of William Pickens, one of the founders of the NAACP.  Prior to her military service, Harriet was the Executive Secretary of the Harlem Tuberculosis and Health Committee of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association.  In addition to this position, she was a supervisor of recreation programs in the New Deal’s WPA (Works Project Administration). 

Ensign Frances Wills was a native of Philadelphia and graduate of Hunter College.  While Frances pursued her MA in Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, she worked with famed African American poet, Langston Hughes.  She worked in an adoption agency, placing children in adoptive homes.   Her experiences as a pioneering naval officer led Frances to eventually write the book Navy Blue and Other Colors under her married name, Frances Wills Thorpe.

Obviously, these were two accomplished and well educated women, highly qualified to serve their country as military officers in time of war.  It was only their race that stood in their way and the remarkable pair would help to tear that barrier down.  They were sworn in as apprentice seamen in the US Navy in November 1944. 

After receiving their commissions a month later, both Harriet and Frances serviced at the Hunter Naval Training Station in Bronx, NY, the main training facility for enlisted WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) recruits.  Harriet Pickens led physical training sessions up until her death in 1969 at the age of 60.  Frances Wills taught naval history and administered classification tests.  She died in 1998.

Lieutenant Pickens’ and Ensign Wills’ military files are two of the records in our PEPs (Persons of Exceptional Prominence) collection at the National Archives at St. Louis. Due to the high volume of attention and research on their military career, Lieutenant Pickens and Ensign Wills’ record was placed in the PEP collection and digitally copied. The Preservation Programs at St. Louis treats and stabilizes PEP records by placing the documents in polyester film sleeves, removing fasteners and staples and undertaking any required repair actions that will extend the life of the documents. An entire record is then scanned and placed on DVDs so researchers can access exact replicas, thus preventing damage to the original documents.

We are proud to highlight the lives and achievements of these two courageous women who in the face of segregation and hatred overcame and changed the face of the United States Navy forever.


Photographs such as these are often used to sign the death warrants of perfectly salvageable buildings.  The top photo demonstrates grime and fallen plaster; it is taken at a slanted angle, which suggests (in that manner in which photographs lie) that the building is not level.  The bottom photo - a more honest photograph in terms of being level - can still be used to tell a false narrative about the building - look at the falling tiles!  This building must be in horrible shape!

But I used two photos from a bathroom in one of the mansions on Admiral’s Row - in the Brooklyn Navy Yard - to make a point.  During the 2008 Section 106 proceedings that were federally mandated to look at preservation options for the site before the land was transferred, photographs such as these were used to shock and awe local residents into believing that the buildings were beyond repair.

And yet, on a table near the one on which similar photos to mine sat was another table.  And on this table were two reports, commissioned from two different architectural firms, judging 9 of the 11 structures to be sound, level and plumb.  Of course, most of the people showing up for the proceedings took one look at the photos and damned the buildings.  If they’d taken the time to read the detailed reports, they’d realize that the mid-19th-century Second Empire mansions could have been rehabbed and added value to their neighborhood.  Instead, they’ll likely wind up a complete loss.

As a photographer, I’m acutely aware of the fact that photos lie.  In the top photo, it’s clear that the building needs to be cleaned up and perhaps the bathroom needs gut renovated, but nothing further about its condition can realistically be implied.  In the bottom photograph, we learn just about nothing - bathrooms need re-tiled all the time, and using photos like this is just a base appeal to emotion without any shred of factual evidence that the structure itself is actually in rough shape.  The camera lies, and once a building is torn down, it cannot come back to life.  So always mix a bit of common sense in with appreciation of photographic “evidence” when determining whether a building is a good candidate for preservation.


To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the creation of the National Archives, staff from around the country submitted contemporary photographs of their workplace and people to show what we look like in 2014 for anyone interested now and in the future. 

You can see more photos of staff at the photo set on Flickr

Images from top:

Mickey Ebert, Education Specialist; and Chris Magee, Archivist; practice “NARA and National Symbols,” a distance learning puppet show for kindergarteners with Hairy History and War Eagle, puppet  at the Interactive Distance Learning Lab at the National Archives at Kansas City. Photographer: Jessica Hopkins. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.

Audrey Amidon showing a close-up of acetate film in an advanced state of vinegar syndrome in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab at the National Archives at College Park. The film base has shrunk more than the emulsion causing the wrinkly surface you see here. Photographer: Richard Schneider. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.

Brad Brooks, Brian Swidal, Laurice Clark, and Amy Bunk hanging up the seal of the National Archives at the Office of the Federal Registrar. Photographer: Jim Hemphil. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.

Devon McKeown cleaning archival records at the National Archives at Chicago. Photographer: Mary Ann Zulevic. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration. contractor digitizes Los Angeles Naturalization Petitions at the National Archives at Riverside. Photographer: Joseph S. Peñaranda. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.

Places in England recently given protected status

  • Lostwithiel Battlefields, Cornwall. 1644

The two Civil War battlefields sites near Lostwithiel are the first additions to the Register of Battlefields. The Lostwithiel Campaign was the culmination of a long-running conflict enacted in Devon and Cornwall between the Parliamentarian force led by the Earl of Essex and the Royalists led  by King Charles I. The battles which took place were among the worst defeats suffered by a Parliamentarian army during the War, and among the Royalists’ greatest successes.


Ellis Island: From ‘sad side’ to saving ‘South Side’

A century ago, the hospital complex at the historic Ellis Island immigration inspection station was where approximately one out of every 10 arrivals who were too sick to be allowed into the country were sent to recover, or to die.

The 29-building medical complex – in its day the largest public health institution in the U.S. – was itself left to die when the immigration station closed in 1954.

Ellis Island’s Main Building was restored and reopened as an immigration museum in 1990. But the hospital complex on the island’s south side remained shuttered for 60 years until two months ago, when officials opened the dilapidated buildings for public viewing.

“Even though much of the hospital equipment is no longer here, these special buildings are able to speak volumes,” said Superintendent John Piltzecker of Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. “The National Park Service is pleased to work with Save Ellis Island in their efforts to bring visitors to the South Side to learn more about the island’s unique story through this special tour program.”

The hard-hat tours take visitors through select areas of the 750-bed medical complex which have been stabilized and partially restored – including large hospital wards, kitchens, laundry facilities and morgues.

“The tour is for history buffs and especially photography lovers,” said Yahoo News photojournalist Gordon Donovan, who recently took the 90-minute tour and shares his images above.

“The fading colors of the interiors, corroding machinery, metal stairs and doors. Strong textures and challenging lighting are wonderful photography experiences you should not miss.” 

Proceeds from the tours go toward the continuing preservation and restoration of the hospital complex.

Photography by Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News

See more photos from Ellis Island and our other slideshows on Yahoo News.

New Preservative Could Save Ancient Ships For Archaeologists


A novel polymer network that soaks into wood and provides artefacts with structural support while simultaneously protecting against biological degradation has been developed by scientists in the UK. The team say the polymer network could be a ‘one-stop’ material for tackling the main issues conservators face when treating and drying historical objects.

Large wooden artefacts such as the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s famous flagship, are currently treated with a polyethylene glycol (PEG) spray to prevent the wood from shrinking as it dries out. PEG works by replacing the water held by cells within the wood, which have been hollowed out over the years by marine bacteria. Read more.