About UIMNH Collections

Most collections at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and came from University expeditions, faculty collections, and private donors. Egg collecting was a popular hobby before 1918, when the Migratory Bird Treaty Act went into force to protect birds and made it illegal “to take, possess, import, export, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit…” The Museum maintains current permits to have and use these collections. By transcribing data associated with our historic collections, you are helping the Museum to get information about these specimens into the hands of researchers all around the globe, so they can study this valuable scientific resource.

Key to Sample Egg Cards

Egg Card Transcription Key 1

Egg Card Transcription Key 2

Transcription Tips

  • Most eggs in our collections were collected between the 1870s and 1920s, so the year “99” is 1899, and the year “14” is 1914, but transcribe only what you see.
  • Egg collectors usually mark each egg in a set with a “Set Mark.” Examples: 117.v., x, 129, ¼, or 2-15-14.
  • The set mark can be a series of numerals and/or letters, and might include what looks like a fraction (the lower number often refers to the number of eggs found in that clutch or set, so the “Number of Eggs in the Set” often matches that lower number).
  • Many egg data cards are forms with pre-printed field names, followed by handwritten data in those fields.
  • Egg data cards in the Clinton Mellen Jones collection are not usually pre-printed forms, so set marks are not labeled “Set Mark.” C. M. Jones set marks usually consist of a number and letter and look like this: 117.v. or 129.r.¼
  • For compound cards (in which there is a primary card and a secondary card, because the original egg card was incorporated into a new collection), there might be two fields with similar data. Transcribe the most complete line for each field (example: if one card in a two-card set lists the collector’s name as E. H. Montgomery, and the other lists the collector’s name as E. Herbert Montgomery, transcribe the line with the most information: E. Herbert Montgomery.
  • If a card indicates the eggs are from someone’s oological (egg) collection but were collected by someone else, put both the “Collected by” name and the “Oological collection of” name in the “Name of Collector” field, separated by [to], e.g. Collected by W. Scott [to] Oological Coll. of W. F. Coultas.
  • Dots for Is, Js and crosses for Ts are often not connected to or above the letter they are completing; watch for i/j-dots and t-crosses floating farther along in the handwritten word.
  • Scientific names may contain a full genus name and species name (e.g. Turdus migratorius), or an abbreviated genus and full species (T. migratorius). Some may contain a subspecies name (e.g. T. migratorius confinis). Bird taxonomy references such as Avibase or All About Birds may help you transcribe scientific names if you can read the common name, or vice versa.
  • Many scientific names have changed over time. Transcribe what is written on the cards you are transcribing, without updating the names to their current forms. On the resources page, old bird checklists by the AOU (American Ornithologists Union) or Gray link historic names with their historic numbers, and are another way to verify the accuracy of your transcription.
  • Scientific names are sometimes followed by a name or abbreviation in parentheses (eg. T. migratorius (Linn.) or Calcarius ornatus (Towns.)) which indicates the name of the scientist who originally named the species (Linnaeus and Townsend in these examples). Transcribe what you see, don’t try to write out the whole name if it’s abbreviated. Some scientists named many species, so there may be a lot of repetition in these names.
  • “ “ or “do.” below a word or phrase stand for “ditto” and mean that the same word or phrase is repeated on that next line. If an egg card contains multiple lines about more than one egg set, include information from each set in the fields, separated by [and].
  • The symbols ♀ and ♂ are commonly used to mean “Female” and “Male”—transcribe these as [female] and [Male].
  • If no information is written in a field on a pre-printed form, transcribe [blank] in that field on the transcription form. Also transcribe [blank] in a field on the transcription form when there is no information in a free-form egg data card that corresponds with that field.
  • Don’t worry about formatting.
  • Transcribe words as they are spelled or abbreviated. Resist the temptation to correct what you see in the document.
  • Do not transcribe text that has been crossed out.
  • Do not transcribe hyphens or spaces in words that occur at line breaks.
  • Indicate if you can’t decipher a word. If you are unsure of a word or phrase, please type [illegible], or your best guess followed by a question mark within brackets [Chattanooga?], or even [town?] or [name?].
  • If you see the term [illegible] in a transcription, please try to decipher and transcribe the word.
  • Please try to transcribe all elements of the document, including typewritten text that may appear in a table, form, etc. Don’t worry about formatting the transcription. If a page is entirely typewritten, do not transcribe it.
  • Consider the context. If you’re having trouble with a word or passage, read “around” it and think about what a likely word would be, or look for other letters and spellings in the document that are similar.
  • Consult listed resources such as Avibase, an early AOU checklist, or the USGS Geonames site for help deciphering bird or place names.
  • Be aware of contemporary spellings and abbreviations. Common eighteenth and nineteenth-century abbreviations and their full spellings include: inst. = a date in this month (e.g. the 15th inst.); ult. = a date in the previous month (5th ult.); &c = et cetera; Common “misspellings” and writing conventions: ware = were; thare = there; verry = very; evry = every; evning = evening; perhapse = perhaps; attacted = attacked; fiew = few; greaddeal or great eal or gread eal = great deal; fs = ss (e.g. mifses = misses); do = ditto; recd = received.
  • Let us know in the “Discuss” area if you know something about any of the collectors or their Iowa ties.
  • Contact us for more specific questions/problems.

More Information

  • An early AOU checklist, with AOU numbers

Biodiversity Library