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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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The Entomology Illustration Archive currently consists of approximately 6000 catalogued illustrations in a variety of media and styles. They were created to support the research and publications of the Department's entomologists. Most have been published, although some remain unpublished. The collection continues to grow as researchers and associated agencies contribute images for documentation and safekeeping.

The Entomology Illustration Archive was made possible by a generous grant from the Smithsonian Women's Committee. The invaluable assistance of numerous volunteers and staff over many years in the way of sorting, scanning and documenting the images has allowed the collection not only to grow, but also to become a unique resource for scientists, artists, and historians.

Cameraria hamadryadella (Lepidoptera: Cosmopterigidae) painting by Vichai Malikul

Agra suprema (Coleoptera) illustration by George L. Venable

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The earliest work held in the Entomology lllustration Archives is dated 1900. There are a small number of drawings from 1920-1940, though most illustrations date from the 1950s through the 1980s. Many of the earlier drawings are now housed at the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Notable artists from throughout these periods include Elsie Froeshner, Andre Pizzini, Francis H. Noyes, Michael L. Druckenbrod, Art Cushman, Elaine R.S. Hodges, George L. Venable, Gloria Gordon Zimmer and Linda H. Lawrence. The Department of Entomology currently has three staff illustrators, Vichai Malikul and Young T. Sohn, who work with traditional media (e.g. pen & ink, paint, carbon dust) in support of research conducted by SI entomologists. Taina Litwak works in both traditional and digital media in support of research conducted by USDA entomologists. Karolyn Darrow (SI) is currently the department's digital imaging specialist, using high resolution digital photography and digital illustration media in her work.

Tetraglossa palpalis (Coleoptera) illustration by Young T. Sohn

Illustrations created for entomological research in systematics are an integral part of that science and provide a valuable visual reference to textual material. Scientific illustrations form an integral part of any research publication, and without them the task of describing processes, species, genera, or biological diversity would be next to impossible.

The scientific illustration is a product of the interaction between the scientist and the artist. When successful, the interaction allows scientists to describe what they see with emphasis on significant details and elimination of characteristics distracting or irrelevant to their purposes.

Because the illustrator can compensate for the physical limitations of depth-of-field or optical distortion that are inherent in traditional photographic technologies, the scientific illustration is generally better directed and more descriptive than an unmanipulated photograph.

A well-executed scientific illustration has not only scientific and artistic value, but in time may reflect historic value as well, as do the illustrations of Darwin and Audubon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Information about the archives may be obtained from
David Furth or Karie Darrow of the Department of Entomology.

 

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