Archival Manual | About the Archives

Archival materials include field notes, photographs (both digital and non-digital), annotated maps, historical correspondence, artwork, and scientific illustrations. The Museum seeks to archive materials that are associated with research projects, specimens, and MVZ history and personnel.

Field Notebooks 

The MVZ Archives contain over 700 bound field note volumes that encompass the work of more than 250 investigators. These books contain information on specimens and species’ observations that are not recorded elsewhere in the Museum’s catalogs. In addition to text, the field note volumes are filled with photographs, drawings, and annotated maps that highlight early collecting localities and associated habitats.


The MVZ Archives include over 15,000 black-and-white and color prints, film and glass negatives, lantern slides, 2×2 color slides, and modern digital images. Many of these photos date from the late 1800s to early-mid 1900s. Like the field notes, these images document species’ presence, research activities, and changing environmental conditions over the past 100 years. Photos continue to be an important component of new MVZ accessions.

Annotated Maps

The MVZ Archives contain about 480 maps dating from 1889, mostly of areas in California, Alaska, and other western US states. These maps were used by early researchers while in the field, and thus are marked with original routes, collecting localities, and notes about sites and the specimens collected. Much of these annotated maps were used to update our modern collection database and have been the basis of resurvey efforts.


The MVZ Archives house all correspondence from the date of its founding to the present, with the exception of letters between Annie M. Alexander and Joseph Grinnell regarding establishment of the Museum (housed in the UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library ).  Letters written from the field often provide natural history observations, while those relating to Museum business offer a unique perspective into development of wildlife policies and practices and professional organizations in the early decades of the 20th century. Our historical files (1908 to 1930, when the Museum moved to the Life Sciences Building) are archived separately from other correspondence in the collection and encompass ca. 54 linear feet (ca. 2000 file folders).


The MVZ Archives maintain a collection of ca. 300 items of color and black & white original artwork in various media, created as illustrations for books and articles by often Museum authors. This collection includes original works by Allan Brooks, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Ernest Thompson Seton, Charles R. Knight, Charles Schultz and Robert Stebbins. The Archives also stores original intaglio prints dated 1798 of animals from the voyages to the New World under de la Perouse, 1785-1788, and original Audubon lithographs dated 1847. Some artwork (e.g., paintings by Robert Stebbins for plates to the Field Guide to Western Amphibians and Reptiles) are associated with voucher specimens in the Museum. This material has significant value as a collection of scientific illustrations.