Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Department of Paleobiology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
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Fur Seal Report
by Sarah Pelot
Conservation assistant, Sarah Pelot, prepared the following report about her work caring for a collection of twelve 19th century illustrations of fur seals found in the Department of Paleobiology.

Rolled illustrations before care.


Pen and ink illustration of fur seals.


This collection of drawings comprises twelve illustrations of fur seals prepared under the direction of David Starr Jordan for a publication on the history, condition, and needs of the herds of fur seals residing on islands in the North Pacific Ocean. These original pen and ink drawings were found in the summer of 2000 in the Department of Paleobiology tightly rolled together and covered with a brittle, dusty, brown paper wrapping. Both ends of the roll were open and very dusty.

Two notations, “Original drawings for Fur Seal Islands Report” and “Original drawings of Maps Comm (ander) & Kuril Isl. for 1898 Asiatic Fur Seal Islands,” were written in ink on the brown wrapper and later identified as the handwriting of Remington Kellogg. A search of the Kellogg Library, Dept. of Paleobiology, NMNH, yielded the complete set of four volumes of the Report of Fur-Seal Investigations, 1896-1897, Parts 1-4. Part 1 of this publication was the basis for the identification of the subject matter of eleven of the illustrations of the seals (Paleo. Inventory #’s 1002-1012) and the artist Bristow Adams who executed them. The twelfth illustration (Paleo. Inventory # 1013) was identified from Part 3 of the same publication.

Origin of Illustrations
The Commission on Fur Seals was undertaken by the Department of the Treasury at the direction of the U.S. Congress to study the causes of an apparent decline of the fur seal populations in the Northern Pacific islands and the effects of that decline on the sealing industry. All important questions relating to the natural history of the seals, both at sea and on the islands, were to be considered, as well as the practices of the sealing industry itself, as causes of the decline of the seal population.

The Commissioner-in-charge of the fur-seal investigations was David Starr Jordan, already a well-known ichthyologist, who was at the time President of Leland Stanford Jr. University. Jordan, who had close ties to the U.S. National Museum, asked Leonhard Stejneger, Curator of Reptiles, and Frederic A. Lucas, Curator of Comparative Anatomy, to join the investigation. A young undergraduate at Stanford, Bristow Adams, was asked to accompany as field illustrator to draw the seals from life. Two years of observation in the field, 1896 and 1897, resulted in the following publication: Report of Fur-Seal Investigations, 1896-1897, Parts 1-4, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1898, 1899.

Description of Illustrations
The drawings are original pen/ink illustrations of fur seals, shown as detailed views of the heads only or of seals in their natural settings. The general dimensions of all of the illustrations are approximately 49.0cm x 58.8cm. There is no identification (no title or name of artist) on the artwork itself.
Paper – appearance (color, smoothness, weight, common usage at end of 19th Century) is consistent with cartridge paper, a paper used in the munitions industry to wrap explosive powder and shell. It was discovered by artists at that time to be an excellent paper for ink. This information was supplied from personal communication with Dianne van der Reyden and Mary Studt, paper conservators at SCMRE.

The illustrations had been tightly rolled together and wrapped in brown paper. The wrapper was extremely dusty, as were the drawings themselves. The paper support was brittle and discolored. The edges of the drawings forming the ends of the roll were damaged mainly with small nicks, losses, and tears. The edges of the drawings along the length of the roll sustained the greatest amount of damage, which appears to be the result of past improper handling when attempting to unroll the illustrations. The tears and bends appear in the same location on each of the drawings.
The ink used is black and non-soluble in water. Microscopic examination shows the media to be in very good condition (adherence to support is intact).

Recommended treatment
A consultation was sought with paper conservators at the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE). Senior Paper Conservator, Dianne van der Reyden, made the following recommendations for treatment and stabilization of the fur seal illustrations:

1. Write Examination and Condition Report to document the condition of the drawing before treatment.
2. Photographically document the condition of the document before treatment using black and white print film and color slide film.
3. Surface clean non-image areas using a soft brush, grated eraser crumbs and solid eraser where appropriate.
4. Humidify overall and place between blotters and weight.
5. Photographically document as in step 2.
6. Place drawing in mylar L-Weld with insert of acid-free, buffered paper.
7. Store flat in archival folder in dust free environment in metal storage cabinet.
8. Write Treatment Report to document treatment steps taken and materials used during treatment.

Actual treatment
Steps 5-6 were re-evaluated as surface cleaning progressed. The decision was made not to humidify the illustrations, but to encapsulate each in mylar with a sturdy, acid-free, lightly buffered board. Illustrations were stored in a metal cabinet.

List of illustrations
Paleo Inventory #
1. A Waiting Beach-Master, Lukanin Rookery, Saint Paul Island. (The original drawing has not been found. This illustration is the frontispiece for the Report of Fur-Seal Investigations, 1896-1897, Part 1. It is included here in order to keep intact a record of the drawings for this publication and to provide quick identification should this illustration later be found.)
2. Young Male Sea Lion.
3. Fur Seal Pup.
4. Head of Fur Seal Pup.
5. Head of Female Fur Seal.
6. Head of a Typical Rookery Bull.
7. A Typical Rookery Bull.
8. Attitudes of Fur Seals in the Water.
9. A Rookery Dispute.
10. A Defeated Beach Master.
(This illustration is also one of the drawings in this publication. The original drawing has not been found.)
11. A Rookery Courtship.
12. An Abducted Cow.
13. A Starved Pup.
14. Herded Seals in the Salt Lagoon. Plate XXXVII.
This illustration is found in the Report of Fur-Seal Investigations, 1896-1897, Part 3. It shows an enclosure constructed under the auspices of the Fur-Seal Commission for the purpose of gathering the seals for branding and thus studying their migration patterns.

The following drawings were found and inventoried, then later identified as illustrations from the Report of Fur-Seal Investigations, 1896-1897,Part 3.

A. Heart of Seal Pup.
B. Liver of Seal Pup.
C. Stomach of Seal Pup.
D. Anterior Venous System of R. Side.
E. Posterior Venous System of L. Side.
F. Posterior Arterial System.
G. Veins of Forelimb of Pup.
H. Stomach of Seal Pup.

List of maps


Paleo Inventory #
1. Plate 87, Overlay for Map of Western Portion of Bering Sea.
2. Plate 87, Table of Pelagic Sealing off Komandorski Islands.
3. Plate 88, Pelagic Sealing off Komandorski Islands, 1892-1897.
4. Plate 91, Map of Bering Island.
5. Plate 92, Map of Copper Island.
6. Plate 97, Sketch Map of Poludionnoye Rookery, Bering Island.
7. Plate 98, Sketch Map of Poludionnoye Rookery, Bering Island.
8. Plate 98, Distribution of Seals, Aug. 1, 1896.
9. Plate 99, Map of Karabelnoye Rookery, Copper Island.
10. Plate 100, Map of Karabelnoye Rookery, Copper Island.
11. Plate 101, Distribution of Seals, July 13-16, 1883, Glinka Rookery, Copper Island.
12. Plate 102, Distribution of Seals, Aug. 2-7, 1895, Glinka Rookery, Copper Island.
13. Plate 103, St. Iona Island.
14. Plate 110, Graph of Pelagic Sealing in Asiatic Waters.
15. Plate 105, Map of the Fur Seal Islands in the Middle Kurils.
16. Plate 107, Srednoi Rocks and Ushishir Islands (Kuril Islands).
17. Plate ?, Mushir Rocks (Kuril Islands).

Subject: Fur Seals
Artist: Bristow Adams
Publication: Jordan, David Starr, Report of Fur-Seal Investigations,
, Parts 1-4, The Fur Seals and the Fur-Seal Islands of the North Pacific Ocean, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1898, 1899.
Date of illustrations: 1896-1897
Size: 49.0 cm x 58.8 cm
Owner: National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Department of
Paleobiology Examination, Photography and Report: Sarah B. Pelot
Conservation Treatment: Sarah B. Pelot
Supervisor: Mary Parrish, Illustrator, Department of Paleobiology, NMNH
Supervising Conservator: Dianne van der Reyden, Senior Paper Conservator, Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE)
Examination Date: May-August, 2001

Illustration Techniques