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The International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences

A unique resource for scholars, the International Catalog of Sources (ICOS) is just what its name implies, a catalog of information on the locations and contents of collections of archival materials, such as unpublished correspondence and institutional records, around the world. Many historians of physics and other scholars touch base with the ICOS for History of Physics and Allied Sciences, especially when planning new research projects.

ICOS is maintained by the AIP Center for History of Physics in an ongoing project to gather and provide computer-readable, indexed information on holdings in libraries and other institutions, and to share the data with the major online catalog, OCLC.

What information goes in?

We seek information about papers of scientists working in physics and related fields, such as astronomy, acoustics, optics, geophysics, medical physics, and the other fields covered by the AIP Member Societies. We also seek information on records of major institutions such as academies of science, academic physics departments, and research laboratories.

Our period of interest is chiefly from about 1890 to the present, but when we learn of 19th century collections of interest, and even earlier ones of major importance, we include them as well. In addition to collections that are in libraries and archives, the ICOS has information on papers in private hands (especially if they are available for research use), and information on papers of significant scientists that have been destroyed.

We aim to include the following information on collections: the format of materials (correspondence, notebooks, travel reports, minutes of meetings, etc.), scientific and nonscientific topics covered, names of major correspondents, etc. Copies of finding aids to individual collections are welcome as supplementary aids for scholars; at the moment the AIP Center has more than 700 of these finding aids. Please use the ICOS Worksheet to submit collection descriptions for inclusion.

How can I get information from the ICOS?

The ICOS database is now available online through our web catalog. Our staff will also search the ICOS database for any researcher on request; send an inquiry to the Niels Bohr Library & Archives by mail, fax, or email . Also, the majority of the existing ICOS records have been uploaded into the AMC file of RLIN's bibliographic database, and uploads of new information will continue periodically. There is currently a free gateway to RLIN's AMC file via the Library of Congress/National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections website.

All ICOS records are thoroughly indexed (names and subjects); topical index terms are assigned as specifically as possible to enable focussed searching. RLIN also carries an outstanding bibliography in the history of science and technology. Access to all of the RLIN files is available in many university and research libraries; ask your librarian.

The ICOS database is complemented by the Physics History Finding Aids, which provide full-text access to archival finding aids from numerous institutions. We recommend starting your search for archival materials in the ICOS. If a body of records has a finding aid included in the Physics History Finding Aids web site, a hyperlink will be provided to connect users to the site.

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