Monday, August 20, 2012

USDA-ARS NAL - National Agricultural Library


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pomological Watercolor Collection

                                   The National Agricultural Library's Abraham Lincoln Building (USDA_ARS NAL) is located in Beltsville, Maryland, 15 miles northeast of Washington, DC, near the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Interstates 95 and 495 (Beltway Exit 25-North). The Library occupies a 14-story building on the grounds of USDA's Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC). On May 15, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Agricultural Act that established the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The newly created Department the newly-created Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of Agriculture were and are charged with the duty "to acquire and preserve in his Department all information concerning agriculture which he can obtain by means of books and correspondence." In 1864, USDA received appropriations that included for $4,000 for the library and laboratory.

               Today, the National Agricultural Library is one of five national libraries of the United States. It houses one of the world's largest and most accessible agricultural information collections, if not indeed the largest and serves as the nexus for a national network of state land-grant and U.S. Department of Agriculture field libraries. In fiscal year 2011 (Oct 2010 through Sept 2011) NAL delivered more than 100 million direct customer service transactions.

               The Special Collections of USDA_ARS NAL houses rare books including Fuchs and Linnaeus originals, manuscript collections, nearly 300,000 nursery and seed trade catalogs, photographs, and posters including  original Smokey the Bear art work, and books, paitings and art from the 1500s to the present. Materials cover a variety of agricultural subjects including horticulture, entomology, poultry sciences, natural history, and are not limited to domestic publications. As part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Special Collections at the National Agricultural Library is charged with arranging, describing, preserving and making available rare materials significant to the history of agriculture and the USDA.

               "More than 100 white boxes fill shelf after shelf of the fifth floor at the National Agricultural Library (NAL), sheltering secrets of U.S. Department of Agriculture parasite investigations from 1886 to 1987. The boxes are filled with line drawings, photographs, lantern slides, research notes, documents, and correspondence that represent the early history of parasitology work, especially in taxonomy and systematics, conducted over the past 100 years and more by USDA scientists."  

Fast Facts:
·        Time period: 1886 to 1942, with the majority created between 1894 and 1916.
·        Content: 7,584 watercolor paintings, lithographs and line drawings, including 3,807 images of apples.
·        Fruit origins: The plant specimens illustrated originated in 29 countries and 51 states and territories in the U.S.
·        Artists: The paintings were created by approximately twenty-one artists commissioned by USDA for this purpose. Some works are not signed.
·        Reproductions: NAL can provide, for a fee, high quality prints and digital files of the images. Please refer to the "Buy Rare and Special Collections Products.".

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