Major Collection of Oral History Interviews Mounted on the Web Now Available Online at http://www.aip.org/history/oral_history/OHIhome.html
The Niels Bohr Library & Archives has embarked on a project to digitize and make available on the Web some 500 transcripts from its oral history collection, which is by far the world’s most important set of interviews in physics, astronomy, geophysics and allied fields. The project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Friends of the Center for History of Physics, and an endowment from the Avenir Foundation, began in June 2007 and will be completed in 2009. Currently 210 transcripts are digitized and online and more are being mounted every day. Please visit http://www.aip. org/history/oral_history/OHIhome.html to see a listing.
The oral history collection at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives is one of its most frequently used resources. The collection is particularly strong in the areas of quantum physics and philosophy, nuclear physics including weapons issues, modern astronomy and cosmology, solid state physics, laser science, modern multi-institutional collaborations in high-energy physics, space science and geophysics, industrial research, and physicists and astronomers in education, science societies and institutions. The bulk of the interviews were created by staff of the Center for History of Physics, although many more were acquired from individual scholars (especially those assisted by a Grant-in-Aid from the Center) or as copies from other archives. Many result from projects in a particular area.
For example, the Sources for History of Modern Astrophysics project conducted by the Center in the 1970s created more than 400 hours of interview with more than 100 leading astronomers and astrophysicists. The Center is also a creator and repository of the Archive for the History of Quantum Physics, a collection of interviews of nearly 100 people involved in the development of quantum mechanics between the 1890s and 1933.
The digitization of these interviews now enables full text searches across all the online interviews, or within each transcript, through AIP’s own search engine and through the major Internet search engines. This will provide a much wider dissemination of the collection and much easier access to portions of special interest. We have included short voice clips on some of the interviews so Web visitors can hear the actual voices of the scientists. Each transcript is accompanied by a portrait from our photo archives, when available. These features are meant to show the human side of science, a dimension not always easily seen by scholars and the general public.
The online versions of these transcripts, as well as information on transcripts not yet online but available at the Library or on loan, can be found by searching for either names or subjects in the library’s web catalog at http://libserv.aip.org:81/ipac20/ ipac.jsp?profile=newcustom-icos&menu=search#focus. Lists of the transcripts online, and voice clips, may be found at http://www.aip.org/history/oral_history/OHIhome.html.
The most time-consuming and costly part of the project is to obtain permissions to put them online: when many of the interviews were conducted, a Web entirely open to all the world was scarcely imagined, and we only sought permission to make the interviews available in the Library or as copies on loan. We continue to search for permissions for the interviews in our collection so that we can meet our goal of getting 500 online within the next year. Some of the people who gave interviews in the 60’s and 70’s, or their heirs, have proved to be elusive. Below is a list of people we would like to contact about our project. We would greatly appreciate any information on how to get in touch with them or their heirs. If you can help, please contact Joe Anderson, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, firstname.lastname@example.org.