The LighterSide Project
Tulane University, in its earlier years, was well known for its botany and similar sciences that had been, in the early 20th century, the forefront of science. Sadly, as much of the research of the period has been overwhelmed, the preservation and cataloging of secondary research in those fields has waned. This has been particularly true in the field of botany. As time passes, substituting for the rigors of library science, the art of accidental discovery has become the tool for research into the history of botanical sciences.
Unlike ordinary field research, often the flush of new discoveries waits on the retirement or death of emeritus professors, or the renovation or replacement of aged university structures. Within those walls, stored in isolated closets, one can find old slides, copies of discontinued journals, and records of field research whose path to recognition was interrupted.
This author writes to document the discovery of one such set of documents and research, actually -- and probably accidentally -- discarded on the renovation of one of the oldest campus buildings standing on the New Orleans campus. On July 14th, 2011, graduate students at the University, assigned to audit the contents of a closet at the rear portion of the 3rd floor of Dinwiddie Hall, determined that none of the papers were of interest, and that the boxes of slides duplicated existing modern digital imagery, and stored samples. On their instruction, and with the concordance of the faculty team delegated to review their work, the students directed campus workers to haul the material out. Into 33 gallon, thick-mil, plastic bags, the paper, light wood boxes of slides were dragged outside towards a dumpster. On the way, one particularly full bag, topped with the last of the research papers, with early photographs tore open, blowing about on the grounds.
It was at this time that one of the authors, here, passed by, watching the frantic collection, as it began to rain, leaving the task nearly done, and one three inch high stack of paper and photographs bound by cotton string, tossed at the last towards the dumpster, missing and landing within reach. Curious, the bound stack was picked up. The first page declared this: "On the silkworm parasite, Acrimonious Falacium -- A dissertation. August the 13th, 1911."
This single bundle produced the original source for this article. And not only has its content established a broader understanding of the history and progress of botanical sciences, it has served as a pre-eminent, primary source for understanding the relationship between the Acrimonious Falacium and the varieties of silkworm throughout the world. The spectacular findings documented within that bundle, a sad and small measure hinting at the unknown depth of other research, now buried in a remote landfill.
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