I offer them for the purpose of calling the attention of students to them, and of stimulating investigation in this little known domain of botany...
G.F. Atkinson worked as a Cornell professor between 1890 and 1918, and amassed a large collection of tens of thousands preserved specimens. For many specimens, CUP also holds his personal notes, as well as his photographs of the fresh collection.
Atkinson's broad curiosity about fungi is embodied in his collections. He sought to understand the diversity and relationshps of fungi. To this end he collected widely, especially in the area of New York state near Ithaca and Cayuga Lake. He methodically photographed and recorded the characteristics of his finds. His observations helped him build a sense of the evolutionary relationships among fungi.
Atkinson's herbarium amounted to over 45,000 specimens of preserved fungi, including about 1,000 type specimens. They are now housed at CUP. Despite their age and fragility, they are essential for taxonomic studies--to clarify the characteristics and breadth of a species. They serve as vouchers for Atkinson's many papers, and reflect his ideas. They also shed light on the historic distributions of fungi, particularly in central New York.
at left: Atkinson's photograph of Coprinopsis atramentarius, specimen CUP-A-032889.
One of Atkinson's greatest legacies was his practice of carefully photographing fungi in their fresh state. Many qualities of mushrooms are lost as they are dried. Though Atkinson didn't have access to color technologies, his black and white photos are remarkable portraits. He passed his convictions about photography to his many influential students. His image collection at CUP includes 8,0000 prints and his original glass and film negatives. For most images, we also hold the preserved fungus specimen. His images were scanned as part of our project, and the broken shards of glass negatives were digitally reknit.
at left: one of Atkinson's original glass negatives of Coprinus comatus, above today's Cornell landscape.
At the time of his death, Atkinson was working on a major monograph of the mushrooms and coral fungi of North America. He kept his personal notes on mushroom species on a series of large index cards which refer by number to specimens his herbarium. Though he died before he could complete his great work, many of his ideas can be found in these typed notecards, which were digitized as part of our project.
at left: Atkinson's notes on a culture of a Coprinus species he received from Reginald Buller in Canada. Click for a larger view.