Maria Mitchell’s Attic
Hot Off the Presses!!

It’s been many decades in the making but it is finally here!  I am speaking of Edith Andrews’ new book – Excerpts from a Nantucket Journal

Edith is an island ornithologist who worked for the Maria Mitchell Association for many, many years starting about 1940 as a nature teacher.  She would also serve for many more years as the MMA’s ornithologist, as well as in the Mitchell House as an assistant to the curator and the curator as well.  She taught at Nantucket High School and also taught at Miami University and that is just the beginning. 

This book is a compilation of some of her journal entries concerning her observations on various island birds with lots of island tidbits and stories as well.  Whether you are a birder or not, this is a MUST read!  It is incredibly interesting and full of all sorts of wonderful information.  I will disclose that I helped Edith to put it together – typing up journal entries and taking dictation, working on getting the photographs in, and putting it together − but I learned so much in the process!  I have known Edith since I was maybe ten or younger – first going on a bird walk with her.  I am sure the adults rolled their eyes as my brother and I arrived with our parents.  But my brother made a big hit with some of his natural specimen finds along the way so I think they wound up being okay with us coming along, we were after all very quiet children.  I of course got to know her better as I began to volunteer and then work at the Mitchell House starting when I was 12 (yes, believe it or not, age 12) and even better sitting with her at Ice Pond working on helping her to put the book together.  I consider myself a novice in the bird world – my parents bird – but I learned so much with Edith over the last two or so years that we were working on this – and not just about birds.  And you will too, when you read this – it is a not to be missed book for birders, ornithologists, locals, visitors, and even people from very far “away.” 

You can find the book on the shelves of the MMA’s gift shop (and local stores).  You need to learn about and observe the world around you – as Maria Mitchell once said, “We see most when we are most determined to see.”  Edith’s book will help you learn, see, and appreciate (and even laugh).

P.S. Tuesday, October 29th is Edith’s 98th birthday!!!!


Birds of North America

While cleaning the Special Collections (yes, the task is completed!! but I have a trove of photographs for you), I came across this piece – two pieces actually.  A series that was sold by subscription but I believe was later made into a book − The Birds of North America by Theodore Jasper, A.M., M.D. with the most phenomenal plates.  The covers are in rough shape – but have since been properly contained to preserve them.  I include a few images here.


I Found Some Birds

Still cleaning books and processing archives … Look what I came across the other day rolled up in a big box with many different plans associated with the MMA’s buildings from across the ages of renovations, additions, and master plans.

This is a chart of North American birds published by the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1898.  The twenty-six life sized bird images were created by, I believe, Louis Agassiz Fuertes and it was printed by none other than the Milton Bradley Company of Springfield, MA.  Considering how and where it was stored over the last fifty years or so it is in quite good shape except for the dirt and grime of time, a large water stain at the bottom and a small tear over the body of one bird.

Yet another treasure unearthed in my work!



Mrs. M. Dove and One of Her Young

Over the years in the spring, birds occasionally attempt to nest somewhere near the Mitchell House, usually in a less than choice spot.  Typically, after a day or two of attempting a nest, a bird will give up and realize that the grape arbor is not the perfect spot because it is right over the entry to the Curator’s Cottage where my office is located.  The arbor holds the original Concord Grape vine that belonged to Peleg Mitchell Jr, Maria Mitchell’s uncle and the owner of 1 Vestal Street after the William Mitchell family moved to the Pacific Bank.

Last summer, the Mourning Dove who attempted a nest in the arbor quickly gave up.  This year, the couple – maybe the same one – gave up after a day or so but quickly returned to build their nest over Saturday evening and all day Sunday while it was quiet.  I came to work on Monday morning to find the Mrs. ensconced.  And there she has sat for about four weeks. 

Earlier in the week, she finally revealed what I suspected.  I had not heard a “peep” from above, but I started to notice tiny little bird droppings – of the baby variety – that she has been tossing out of the nest onto the light fixture and flagstone below.  She has successfully hatched two tiny babes – I have never seen a Mourning Dove chick – and they are quite adorable.  The Mr. hangs about on the roofwalk keeping a sharp eye out and the Mrs. has been feeding their young. 

I was able to take some images of them last week which I share with you here.  Who says a historic house museum has nothing new and no life in it?  Not only do we have these doves, we have a recently fledged brood of baby Robins who chase their parents around the yard screaming to be fed – they were born in the hedge – but we have all kinds of great activities for families and children here at the Mitchell House and there is always something new to learn – and to share – even if it is a brood of baby doves in the arbor.  Wouldn’t the Mitchells be proud?!


P.S. I also attach a later image – the babies fledged and this is soon after while they awaited the return of their parents with take-away.