More on science/technology archives


This thread from H-SCI-TECH-MED seems to be generating some interest, so
I'll continue to forward the postings. There's also an archive of postings
from the list at:


Cheers, Tim

>Date: Thu, 09 Jul 1998 11:14:23 -0700
>From: Elizabeth Green Musselman <egreenm@banet.net>
>One issue that concerns me is the relative archival disinterest in
>scientists' and engineers' personal papers (correspondence with family,
>and other documents that on their face don't seem to have much
>scientific value). There is an immensely burgeoning number of social and
>cultural historians who are very interested in how the personal and the
>intellectual intermingle in science and technology.
>In many cases, the papers are available, but poorly cataloged. Here, the
>fault seems to lie especially with those who edit catalogs or published
>volumes of manuscripts. For instance, Peter Harman recently published an
>extraordinarily useful and meticulous edition of James Clerk Maxwell's
>papers -- but excluded many of the personal documents which I need. I
>don't mean to pick on Dr. Harman, who has done an extraordinary service,
>but I *would* encourage archivists and historians who are cataloging or
>publishing manuscripts to consider the importance of these
>"non-scientific" documents.
>Elizabeth Green Musselman
>Elizabeth Green Musselman (egreenm@banet.net)
>Dept. of History & Philosophy of Science, Indiana University
>88 Riverboat Village Rd., South Hadley, MA 01075; 413-532-4329
>Date: Wed, 8 Jul 1998 20:26:11 -0700 (PDT)
>From: KALPANA SHANKAR <kshankar@ucla.edu>
>I find this problem a fascinating one  and my own research interests
>touch on it in many ways.  I'm curious to know how academic archivists
>are handling electronic scientific records in their institutions.
>Actually, I have a ton of questions (some of which I hope to answer in my
>own research):
>- What kind of electronic records are being produced?
>-Is the documentation being produced adequate?  In my (very preliminary)
>research, I'm finding that while many students are contributing
>significantly to research, they are not always very good about keeping
>records of that research.
>- What is the role of the archivist in
>educational institutions with respect to scientific records - esp. when
>many scientists are worried about fraud/theft, etc...?
>-Has the increasing patentability of biological scientific products
changed the
>documentation needs of institutions?
>-How do traditional archival
>methodologies work for documenting the
>social/cultural aspects of research that may be missed in the top-down,
>"great men of science" paradigm?
>Full of questions, but possessing no answers,
>Kalpana Shankar
>Department of Library and Information Science
>University of California, Los Angeles
>Date: Thu, 9 Jul 1998 07:42:10 +0100
>From: Michael Kenny <Michael_Kenny@sfu.ca>
>Given the discussion about the availability of science/technology archives,
>I'd like to call the list's attention to the Contemporary Scientific
>Archives Centre in the UK. Among other things this organization generates
>systematic, detailed, and annotated catalogs of scientific papers and
>correspondence on deposit in one or another UK library and elsewhere.
>The following is their web-page blurb; microfilm copies of the CSAC
>catalogs appear to be available through UMI:
>Scientists, engineers, and medical researchers of the 20th century have
>changed history in many ways. From developing atomic energy and the atomic
>bomb, to advancing computer technology, metallurgy, neurology, and zoology,
>these are the people who pioneered modern research. In 1972 a proposal for
>the creation of a Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre was put forwardin
>England by a joint committee of the Council of the Royal Society and the
>Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. The principal aim was to ensure
>that the notebooks, correspondence, and papers of scientists, engineers,
>and medical professionals were not destroyed before their historical value
>had been assessed.
> Since its establishment in April 1973, the Contemporary Scientific
>Archives Centre, located at Oxford, has played a crucial role not only in
>locating and ensuring the preservation of these valuable materials, but in
>stimulating interest in the records of the scientists. The Centre is
>supported by, and its operations guided by, the Royal Society with the aid
>of other interested bodies.
> The subjects covered in these catalogs include:
>                             anatomy
>                             anthropology
>                             biology
>                             botany
>                             chemistry
>                             computing
>The records of scientists and engineers consist of papers in a variety of
>formats reflecting different phases and periods of their lives. They
>accumulate in different locations: their homes, the institutions where they
>work, and the professional societies to which they belong. They include
>notebooks, working papers, and manuscripts of published works; lectures and
>speeches; correspondence; and personal records and family photographs. The
>collections are cataloged and indexed by the Centre and include all of
>these categories of papers, assembled from various sources.
>Michael G. Kenny
>Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology
>Simon Fraser University
>Burnaby, B.C.  V5A 1S6; Canada
>phone: (604) 291-4270
>fax:   (604) 291-5799
>Date: Thu, 9 Jul 1998 15:52:04 +0100
>From: Paul Rosen <pjr1@anglia.ac.uk>
>Reply-To: P.J.Rosen@anglia.ac.uk
>>         The question seems to be how to inform businesses and
>> bureaucrats that
>> their old records are really going to be of value to some historian of
>> technology or science someday.  And where should they send them?  NARA?
>> NMAH? Local historical societies?
>As a sociologist who has made use of just one company's archives to a
>great extent (the Raleigh Cycle Company in Nottingham, England) I can
>imagine this being more-or-less impossible to achieve comprehensively.
>In my own experience, the management personnel who sold off half the
>company's land in the 1980s had no conception that their archives going
>back a century were of value to anybody but them, hence they failed to
>rescue some of them from a basement that later had housing built over
>it.  Thankfully they have donated most of their archives to the county
>archive office, but these are used by only a few academic researchers -
>most enquirers as far as I understand it are trying to date a rare
>Dr Paul Rosen
>SATSU (Science & Technology Studies Unit)
>Anglia University
>East Road
>Cambridge                 Tel. 01223 - 363271 ext 2423
>CB1 1PT                   Fax. 01223 - 352935
>email:  P.J.Rosen@anglia.ac.uk
Tim Sherratt (Tim.Sherratt@discontents.com.au)
disCONTENTS - Purveyors of fine ideas
PO Box 140, Queanbeyan NSW 2620
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