AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXIII, No. 2, Fall 2001

 

The Library and Archives at the American Meteorological Society
by Jinny Nathans, Archivist, American Meteorological Society

AMS Library
The AMS Library interior after renovation, showing (L-R) Philip Thompson (AMS President 1964-1965), AMS staff member Alice Kelly, Alfred Blackader (AMS President), and Philip Church (maker of the mantel clock). Photo courtesy of the American Meteorological Society.

The Charles F. Brooks Library at the American Meteorological Society Headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts serves as the repository for AMS publications from the founding of the Society in 1919 to the present. Its mission is to collect and maintain the official records of the AMS, to maintain the publications and records of its precursor organization, and to act as the repository for the archival and personal collections currently in its holdings. The Library serves as a resource for qualified scholarly research and for the regular activities of the AMS; library resources support the current publication and editorial activities of the Society and the research needs of its members.

The collections of the American Meteorological Society came together from a number of donors and by a circuitous route. In 1919, AMS founding member Charles Franklin Brooks established an AMS Collection of books and periodicals which were placed on deposit in the Clark University Library in Worcester, Massachusetts. Brooks strengthened and developed the collection through 1931 and it remained in Worcester until 1951. From 1931 through 1957, Brooks also devoted much energy to developing the library at the Blue Hill Observatory, already an impressive and significant collection of material begun in 1884 by the observatory's founder, Abbott Lawrence Rotch.

AMS Library, exterior
AMS Headquarters at 45 Beacon Street, exterior after renovation. Photo courtesy of the American Meteorological Society.

Meanwhile, in 1946, at Boston's AMS Headquarters on Joy Street, the records of Carl Gustav Rossby's University Meteorological Committee had been placed on deposit, joining a fledgling book collection begun by then Executive Director Kenneth Spengler. The original AMS Library Collection begun by Brooks was transferred from Clark University to the Blue Hill Observatory between 1951 and 1954 (specialized climatological material went to the newly established Ward Collection at Harvard's Institute of Geophysical Exploration). Following shortly on Brooks's retirement and death in 1958, the Blue Hill Library was dispersed between the Gordon McKay Library at Harvard University and the AMS. Much of the Blue Hill-related archives and manuscript material had already gone to Harvard repositories—the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the Harvard University Archives, and the Houghton Library. Boston's Metropolitan District Commission also has a large collection of historical photographs and records from the Blue Hill Observatory.

Following the 1960 move of the AMS Headquarters to 45 Beacon Street in Boston, the Charles Franklin Brooks Library was established in a comfortable reading room on the second floor of the newly renovated building. Today the library holds complete runs of all AMS publications, including monographs, conference proceedings, and preprints, while the core of the historical collections remains the Blue Hill material, including C.F. Brooks's rolltop desk, some files (most of Brooks's papers are held by the Harvard University Archives), and photographs.

Balloon at the International Balloon Ascensions
International Balloon Ascensions at Strassburg, July 4, 1901, from an album in the Blue Hill Collection. Photo courtesy of the American Meteorological Society.

Starting in 1995, work began on assessing and processing the materials in the library. The book collection was weeded to select and preserve specialized and unique historical volumes. Archival collections were processed and finding aids were created. Collections processed include the records of the New England Meteorological Society, a predecessor of the AMS, from 1884 through 1896, the papers of Abbot Lawrence Rotch, and the Jabez Dow Observations, dating from 1802. Exhibits were also prepared based on the newly processed materials, including one documenting the activities of the New England Meteorological Society. Another exhibit commemorates Carl Gustav Rossby, who, among other achievements in a long and distinguished career, organized the first university level meteorological program in the United States at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a founder of the geophysical journal Tellus.

Today, work continues on the processing and preservation of the AMS archival collections, while an initiative is underway to convert current paper finding aids to the EAD (Encoded Archival Description) format and to create future collection information in Web-ready EAD. Work is also going forward to create exhibits highlighting historical materials on the AMS Web site so that the history of the atmospheric sciences and its resources can be made more accessible.

For more information on the AMS Library and Archives, please contact Jinny Nathans, 45 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02118, phone: 617-227-2426 x213, e-mail: jnathans@ametsoc.org.


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