At Two Universities, Students Work to Preserve Entomological History

At Kansas State University, students are raising money to ensure the preservation of a set silken teaching aids used by famed entomologist CV Riley at KSU in the late 1800s. (Photo by Jacqueline Maille)

By Jacqueline Maille

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series contributed by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other posts by and for entomology students here at Entomology Today.

Jacqueline Maille

Students and student clubs fill an important role in entomology departments. They are a social outlet for graduate students and undergrads alike, and many clubs engage in public outreach, professional development for their members, and more. A few clubs go the extra mile to leave a lasting impact on the field.

One such impact is preserving natural and entomological history. Two current projects by entomology student clubs at Kansas State University and the University of Wisconsin are paving the way for student-led initiatives to ensure historical works of entomology are preserved for future generations. At KSU, students are raising money to ensure the preservation of a set silken teaching aids used by famed entomologist CV Riley at KSU in the late 1800s. Meanwhile, at UW, entomology students are working to preserve zoological teaching wall charts from the early 1900s. Recently I spoke with Cameron Osborne, a Ph.D. student at KSU and president of the Popenoe Entomology Club (of which I am vice president), and Jacki Whisenant, a masters’ student in entomology at UW, to get their thoughts on these works, the effort they’ve put in to preserve them , how it has impacted them, and some general advice on preserving history.

CV Riley Teaching Aids

Entomology students at Kansas State University (KSU) lovingly talk about how the Waters Hall basement (or “dungeon”) holds secrets, mysteries, and if lucky, treasures. Several years ago, Sonny Ramaswamy, Ph.D., Entomology Department head at the time, uncovered 69 silken teaching aids used during Charles Valentine (CV) Riley’s guest reading time at KSU from 1868–1877. The discovery prompted the need to house and preserve these treasurers in the University Archives and Special Collections at the KSU Library.

The Popenoe Entomology Club was given access to the digitized versions of Riley’s pieces in 2018 and began selling reprints for fundraising. This money started a fund for the club’s CV Riley Special Collection preservation needs, in addition to supporting the club. In the summer of 2021, the club was amid its centennial year, and club president Cameron Osborne asked officers, “How should we, the club officers, want to celebrate and honor our history?” I recounted the story of the Riley prints and proposed that we could start a restoration project in collaboration with the library.

During national archive month in October, we had established a collaboration with Cliff Hight, the KSU Archives and Special Collections Department head, whose team invited a restoration expert, Kenneth Bé, to visit and methodically evaluate the Riley collection. Be documented the condition of each piece and the attention needed for proper restoration and preservation. At least 20 had critical needs, and the club began fundraising toward a goal of $10,000 to begin the conservation process.

To inspire and engage the club in this overwhelming restoration commitment, a private viewing of the works was arranged for club members to experience and appreciate the endeavour. A club committee was formed and established a University Foundation account for donations, which received over $1,000 toward the project in the first week alone! However, donations have slowed down, and the club is looking for ways to energize this endeavor. The club has been exploring external funding opportunities and support and will be introducing a coloring book at the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, which will feature some of Riley’s work. Sales from this coloring book will benefit the restoration fund.

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