AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXVI , No. 2, Fall 2004


How to Use the Online International Catalog of Sources
by Jennifer S. Sullivan

A new Web interface makes it easier to exploit the rich resources of the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences (ICOS). This online database, created through international collaboration and maintained by the AIP Center for History of Physics, contains more than 7,000 records for archival collections located at more than 500 repositories worldwide, including the AIP's own Niels Bohr Library. ICOS is the single richest tool for researchers who want to identify original source materials in physics, astronomy, geophysics and allied fields. The kinds of materials you will find cataloged include institutional records, personal papers, oral history interviews, unpublished biographies, audio and videotapes, and other unpublished sources. AIP staff usually add 100 or more new collections each year, mainly through semiannual surveys of approximately 200 archives that collect science records, but also through special national projects. Newly added collections are reported in this Newsletter.

To use ICOS click on the "International Archival Catalog (ICOS)" link under the Catalogs heading on the History Center's homepage or go directly to This brings you to a search page where you can do either Browse or Keyword searches in a variety of ways, including by Author, Title, Subject or other options. Browse searches produce an alphabetical listing of material in both the ICOS and the Niels Bohr Library book catalogs. Keyword searches confine the results to material in ICOS.

A good way to narrow and refine your search is to select Keyword and use the Limits function, which allows you to specify the location, type, or format of materials you seek. For example, if you are planning to visit the Niels Bohr Library in College Park, MD, you will want to find collections of interest that are held here and not somewhere else. You can restrict your search to these by selecting "Archival material held at AIP." Limits can also be used to confine searches by type of material audio/visual, oral history interviews, etc. or by languages, just to name a few possibilities. A "Sort" function lets you sort the search results by title, author, media type or publication date (this last is found especially useful by scholars searching the book catalog). Just like using limits, you can apply "Sort" either before executing a search or on the results page. A "Help" button provides information specific to your point in your search. For users with more complex needs, "power search" options with logical operators and a "search history" are available. Details may be found in a "FAQ" (Frequently Asked Questions) page, but please feel free to ask the staff for help.

For help in using ICOS, call the Library at (301) 209-3177 between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm Eastern Time on working days to talk with an Archivist/Librarian, or e-mail us at

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