AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXV , No. 2, Fall 2003


Survey of National Laboratory Archives
by Maxine Trost, Laboratory Archivist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Jim Carothers (second from right), who founded the LLNL Archives, was a physicist during the Lab's earliest days. Here he looks at a Project Plowshare test with Edward Teller (far left). Photo courtesy Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Click on photo to see a larger version.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has had an archives since 1981, when physicist and personnel administrator Jim Carothers became the Lab's first archivist. By 2001, when LLNL appointed its first professional archivist, the Archives occupied a 5,000-square-foot facility with some 3,500 cu. ft. of records and artifacts. With increased interest in the Laboratory's history growing from the celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2002, the Lab archives came to the notice of the Director's Office, and a revitalization and modernization ramped up.

As one of the first steps in the process, we undertook an informal survey of similar institutions to gather information about how our sister labs organized and managed their archives. We looked at seven national laboratories that do government contract work. Four of the seven handle classified as well as unclassified documents. Three of the four institutions have records and archives programs that function as a single unit (our data for those programs includes both functions except as otherwise noted).

One of our principal questions was about the archives' placement in their organization. We found most institutions (four) report to some variety of information management function, although this structure was sometimes through administrative departments and sometimes through technical/scientific organizations. Two of the seven report to administrative departments, and one to the communications department. The number of levels between the archives program and the director of the institution ranged from three to five.

All of the surveyed labs were funded through overhead. Budgets ranged from $300,000 to $1.75 million, but only three of the seven labs provided financial information.

Collection size ranged from 1,500 cu. ft. to 5,000 cu. ft. for archives only. Total archival holdings for six of the seven labs (one institution could not distinguish records from archives) is approximately 19,500 cu. ft.; average collection size is 3,250.

Staff for the institutions that include records functions ranged from 1.75 Full-Time Equivalents to 12.5 FTEs. Staff for archives only ranged from 1.5 to 4 FTEs. The number of FTEs per 1,000 cubic feet of materials, including both records and archives, ranged from 0.2 to 0.7 FTE/1,000 cu. ft. of material, with an average of 0.4. The average number of FTEs for records only was 0.3 FTE/1,000 cu. ft. and 0.45 for archives only. These numbers must be taken as rough estimates since both the amount of material and staffing numbers are approximations and the types of materials managed vary.

Research requests from all sources ranged from 7.5 to 200 per month. The average number of monthly requests per institution is 45. If the institution serving 200 requestors per month is eliminated from the total, the average number of requests is 14.5 per month.

The conclusion that I draw from this information is that the national laboratory archives are a heterogeneous lot. I would also speculate that the nature of our collections and demands of our clientele require higher levels of staffing than is typical in many other types of archives. Perhaps this comparison is a candidate for further study.

Return to Newsletter Table of ContentsRETURN to Fall 2003 Newsletter Table of Contents

AIP History CenterCenter for History of Physics
Phone: 301-209-3165
American Institute of Physics 2003American Institute of Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740-3843. Email: Phone: 301-209-3100; Fax: 301-209-0843