In 1883, self-taught naturalist Edgar Waite was only 18 and already a confident and resourceful collector and networker.
'To ascertain the sex of a bird, make an incision over the loins' 1883
© Reproduction rights Waite Family
Edgar Waite was to have a long, illustrious career as a fish scentist and museum professional. His early diaries, set in Leeds, England, before he moved to Australia, range across his personal and professional interests.
This second diary begins with school exercises in algebra, but quickly moves on to show his deepening interest in zoology when he describes (in great detail) how he found a dead shrew which he preserved, stuffed and set up.
During this period Waite was particularly interested in birds, and the diary is largely filled with summaries of contemporary texts, details of bird taxidermy, and notes of his own bird observations.
However, Edgar always had a wide range of interests and the diary also details his collection of mice and the cage he built to house them, as well as his music and dancing lessons.
Field notebooks and journals like Edgar Waite's exceptionally complete set are an invaluable source of information about individuals, biodiversity and the history of the natural sciences in Australia. Digitising, transcribing and indexing these will unlock these treasures for researchers across Australian biography, history, museum studies and natural history.
Our digitisation volunteers in the DigiVol project are continuing to work their way through the 70 volumes of Waite's diaries. To find out more about Edgar Waite, his life and his diaries, join our online transcription project at the Atlas of Living Australia.