AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 1 Preservation of Historical Archives
HAD Special Session, Sunday, 10:00am-1:00pm, January 8, 2006, Maryland C

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[1.02] The Archives of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism: Documenting 100 Years of Carnegie Science

S.J. Hardy (Carnegie Institution of Washington)

The archives of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) of the Carnegie Institution of Washington document more than a century of geophysical and astronomical investigations. Primary source materials available for historical research include field and laboratory notebooks, equipment designs, plans for observatories and research vessels, scientists’ correspondence, and thousands of expedition and instrument photographs. Yet despite its history, DTM long lacked a systematic approach to managing its documentary heritage. A preliminary records survey conducted in 2001 identified more than 1,000 linear feet of historically-valuable records languishing in dusty, poorly-accessible storerooms. Intellectual control at that time was minimal.

With support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the “Carnegie Legacy Project” was initiated in 2003 to preserve, organize, and facilitate access to DTM’s archival records, as well as those of the Carnegie Institution’s administrative headquarters and Geophysical Laboratory. Professional archivists were hired to process the 100-year backlog of records. Policies and procedures were established to ensure that all work conformed to national archival standards. Records were appraised, organized, and rehoused in acid-free containers, and finding aids were created for the project web site. Standardized descriptions of each collection were contributed to the WorldCat bibliographic database and the AIP International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics. Historic photographs and documents were digitized for online exhibitions to raise awareness of the archives among researchers and the general public.

The success of the Legacy Project depended on collaboration between archivists, librarians, historians, data specialists, and scientists. This presentation will discuss key aspects (funding, staffing, preservation, access, outreach) of the Legacy Project and is aimed at personnel in observatories, research institutes, and other organizations interested in establishing their own archival programs.

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