History That Natters capital campaign Back to History Center

Where does my contribution go?

Your pledge or contribution ensures that the Center carries out the many programs needed to capture our rapidly disappearing past and put it to good use. 


  Otto Frisch
Listen to mp3 of Otto Frosch on the Discovery of Fission Listen to Otto Frisch (pictured) and Otto Hahn on the Discovery of Fission

Oral histories of eminent scientists are frequently used by scholars accessing the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. These recollections and personal comments add a human dimension to the historical record, showing us how scientists explained their lives and giving clues to key events that would otherwise be forever unknown.

Interviewing is costly:  preparatory research, travel and interviewing, indexing, archiving, and preserving oral history sessions can add up to $500 per hour of interview.  


Ongoing Preservation

  Richard Feynmann & Toichiro Kinoshita
  Toichiro Kinoshita (left) with Richard Feynman (right)
  "We have a habit in writing articles published in scientific journals to make the work as finished as possible, to cover up all tracks, to not worry about the blind alleys or describe how you had the wrong idea first...So there isn't any place to publish, in a dignified manner, what you actually did in order to get to do the work."
-Richard Feynman

Published scientific papers tell only part of the real history of science. A single letter can cast a bright light on how an idea germinated. These vital source materials are often endangered; recently one collection was rescued from a dumpster after an inquiry by Center staff!

The number of scientists rose exponentially during most of the past century, and now a rising number of pioneers are approaching the ends of their careers. From locating an important collection to recording its contents in our online International Catalog, the Center has to spend anywhere from a few dollars to over ten thousand dollars in staff time and cash assistance.

Visual Archives

John Archibald Wheeler  
John Archibald Wheeler  

Our Emilio Segrè Visual Archives gets more use than any other collection in the Center's Library. Its 30,000 images of scientists include materials from formal portraits to playful snapshots and even cartoons.  By literally showing the "human face" of science, the images refute myths that scientists are souless intellects, detached from the life around them.

Digitizing images and mounting them online costs about $2 apiece. Finding suitable photographs and securing permissions add more costs.  Innovative archival and computer expertise is needed to construct catalogs and other aids to help people locate materials, to handle requests for permission, and to keep abreast of changing technologies.

On-line exhibits

  Pierre and Marie Curie caricature
  Pierre and Marie Curie, from Marie Curie & the Science of Radioactivity

The call for reliable and lively history of science information is dramatic.  Some 4,000 individuals per day visit one or another of our exhibits. Our multiple-award-winning on-line Web Exhibit Hall features histories in physics, astronomy, and allied fields. The stories are enhanced by photographs, digitized oral recordings, animations, source materials, and other features.

Construction of an exhibit can take years, at a cost of $10,000 to $80,000.  Meanwhile, an increasing level of effort is required to keep current exhibits up-to-date.

Public outreach

Lisa Meitner  
Lisa Meitner and students  

The fascinating history of science offers many opportunities to enrich the classroom, home, and library.   Preserving original source materials is just the first step in helping to make known the lives of scientists who have shaped our thinking and our technical landscape.

The reliable support is needed to take full advantage of the opportunity to present high-quality historical information in attractive ways.  The Center needs the assistance of a specialist in outreach who can design and carry out projects to apply historical materials to public and educational uses.

How you can help: