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Dear Ms. Moore,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
We searched the National Archives Catalog and located John Roberts' Subject Files, 1982 - 1986 in the Records of the Office of Counsel to the President (Reagan Administration), 1/20/1981 - 1/20/1989 (Collection RR-0113) that includes the file JGR/Marine Mammal Commission (2 of 3). This document has been made available online and includes a paragraph about Carribean monk seals. We also located Kathleen McGinty's Files, 1993 - 1998 in the Records of the Council on Environmental Quality (Clinton Administration), 1993 - 2001 (Collection WJC-CEQ) that includes the file unit UNCED [United Nations Conference on Environment and Development] and Oceans which includes a brief mention of the Carribean monk seal.
There may be record series with documents concerning the Caribbean monk seal in the Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Record Group 22) and the Records of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Record Group 370) that do not mention the species in their Catalog description. For more information about specific record series, please email the reference unit listed in the Catalog description.
To request a search for photographs, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Still Picture (RDSS) via email at email@example.com.
You also may wish to contact the NOAA Fisheries, the Marine Mammal Commission, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, you may wish to contact scientific organizations such as the International Society for Marine Mammalogy and well as natural history museums such as the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.
We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!
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Elizabeth Moore, to follow up on Jason Atkinson's detailed response above, you may also want to search the National Archives Catalog for other variant names of the Caribbean monk seal, for example, "West Indian Seal" and its scientific name, monachus tropicalis. I found at least one other very brief reference to the West Indian Seal (monachus tropicalis) in this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on the lower Rio Grande Valley: "1987 Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR" (Series: Narrative Reports, 1911 - 2001, Record Group 22: Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1868 - 2008).
This link will search the Catalog for instances all 3 names: https://catalog.archives.gov/search?q=%22west%20indian%20seal%22%20OR%20%22caribbean%20monk%20seal%22%20OR%20%22monachus…
Given the early extinction date of the species, it may be difficult to find photographs of them in Federal Agency records, but if so, they may not be specifically identified as Caribbean Monk Seals, and may simply be labelled as "seals." You may need to visually inspect the photos to see if they're Caribbean Monk Seals or not. You may also need to filter the results, given the preponderance of Alaskan and other non-Caribbean seals that would appear in such a search, and the many other uses of the word "seal" (U.S. Navy SEALs, sealants, seal/stamp/emblem etc.). This will filter out some false positives but may need further refinement. https://catalog.archives.gov/search?q=seal%20NOT%20(Alaska%20OR%20Pribilof%20OR%20Hawaii%20OR%20sealing%20OR%20lock%20OR…
(Again, this only searches for existing digitized photos in the Catalog. Many more have not been digitized and you would need to contact the NARA Still Pictures Branch as Jason mentions above.)
Best of luck with your research & thanks for using History Hub!
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Much of the contemporaneous writing and graphic material related to the topic is likely now in the public domain. You might try searching digitized content on Hathi Trust, Internet Archive, and other similar digital archives. For example, with a search for "west indian seal" in the Hathi Trust digital archive, I find the following article:
Notes on the Life-History of Monachus Topicalis, by Henry L. Ward (Extracted from American Naturalist, March, 1887).
The issue of American Naturalist is available through JSTOR:
The Library of Congress Prints & Photograph Division provides a wealth of imagery from the 19th and early 20th century in their online catalog (PPOC). Although I am not able to find an image of the Caribbean Monk Seal, you may wish to have a look.
Library of Congress