Author: Joe Gentili
Richard Archbold, founder of Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Florida, spent the period from the late 1920’s until the beginnings of WWII on a series of expeditions that took him across the globe. In conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History, he led three scientific expeditions to New Guinea and participated in an earlier one to Madagascar. During his travels to and from these expeditions, he and his crew visited places as far flung as Hawaii, Australia, and Equatorial Africa. Along the way, he accumulated a wealth of photographs, documents, artifacts, and more. The official Archbold Expeditions materials are archived at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but his personnel collection from the expeditions, as well as other personal and family memorabilia are housed at Archbold Biological Station. These materials are collectively known as the Richard Archbold Archive: Archbold Librarian Joe Gentili said, “The overarching goal of the Richard Archbold Archive is to protect and preserve Mr. Archbold’s materials.”
One consequence of the lengthy periods Richard Archbold spent abroad during his early life is that he sent and received many letters. Packages and correspondences were routinely sent to him and his crewmates while they were in New Guinea and Madagascar. He was fastidious in saving these correspondences for posterity. As a result, Archbold Biological Station has hundreds of his letters in the archive.
During expeditions and at stops along their journeys Richard Archbold, his crew members, and their equipment including an airplane named GUBA, were often photographed. Photographs were taken by the crew and their local guides, as well as by National Geographic photographers. These images were frequently used in newspapers and magazine articles about the expeditions. Dozens of original photographs and photographic negatives exist in the Richard Archbold Archive and preserving these is an important objective of the archive.
The materials in the Richard Archbold Archive are mostly from the 1920’s and 1930’s but there are older and newer artifacts as well. The oldest is a book owned by Mr. Archbold, “The Mammals of North America” written by Spencer F. Baird, and published in 1859. There are many personal items from 1941-1976, the period he lived at Archbold Biological Station. The most recent items are from 1976, the year of his death, marked by many obituaries and remembrances from a variety of publications and colleagues, all of which are stored in the Richard Archbold Archive.
In describing the Richard Archbold Archive Gentili stated, “Thanks to the diligence of Archbold staff before me, especially Librarian Emeritus Fred Lohrer, a large variety of materials that belonged to Richard Archbold were protected. There are hundreds of photographs, dozens of artifacts, and thousands of documents.
Recognizing this need, John “Jack” Hufty, Director on Archbold Expeditions’ Board, and nephew of Richard Archbold, recently made a generous gift to further preserve and protect the archive. “This is very important, and it just has to be done,” stated Mr. Hufty, “preserving these items is important to me, it’s important to the Board, and it’s important to anyone who cares about Richard Archbold. He was a shy man, so these materials tell us a lot—they need to be saved.”
Joe Gentili continued, “Now that the archive is undergoing restoration and being upgraded, materials are being catalogued and transferred to improved storage in a manner that is ideal for preservation. This includes use of the appropriate types of boxes to store documents and keep out moisture, a particular problem in Florida.”
Archives serve as a repository of information for future generations. They allow one to interact with materials and learn from the past in a tangible way. Richard Archbold left behind a wealth of materials from a life full of scientific exploration. The Richard Archbold Archive will allow historians to tell his story for generations to come.