AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXVII, No. 1, Spring 1995


Guide to the Archival Collections
in the AIP Niels Bohr Library Now in Print

The AIP Niels Bohr Library's rich and diverse collections of unpublished materials relating to history of modern physics and allied sciences have been cataloged in the recently published Guide to the Archival Collections in the Niels Bohr Library at the American Institute of Physics. The Guide will be an indispensable aid to historians of science, pointing to a wide variety of source materials not only in the Niels Bohr Library itself but extending beyond through its listing of finding aids relating to collections world-wide.

This publication was conceived in the early 1980s when the card file describing the Library's archival collections (dating from 1961) was first automated. In the intervening years, through several generations of databases, Guide entries have been carefully revised and written by Library staff employing the standards required for creating MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) records including, where possible, the use of Library of Congress authorities for name and subject headings. The Guide is divided into eight chapters based on the format of the collections. Within each chapter, entries are listed alphabetically by person or institution. The chapters are unified by a comprehensive index of personal and institutional names and topics. Overall this volume contains 1,690 catalog descriptions on 393 pages with an index of an additional 176 pages. The Guide describes all materials accessioned by the Library before January 1993.

One unusual but handy feature of the Guide is its listing of finding aids to collections held elsewhere. The Library seeks to gather finding aids, where they exist, for every major deposit of physicists' papers held anywhere in the world. The listing thus provides a quick review of extant deposits, while giving access to a collection of finding aids of value to any historian planning a research campaign.

The two largest sections of the Guide are the chapters for Archives and Oral History Interviews. The Archives chapter describes records of the American Institute of Physics and many of the AIP Member Societies such as The American Physical Society and the American Astronomical Society (the Niels Bohr Library is the official repository for the permanent records of AIP and many of the Member Societies). There are also entries for numerous collections of personal and professional papers of individuals for which a more appropriate repository has not been found. Examples are: Samuel A. Goudsmit, atomic scientist and editor of the Physical Review; Lew Kowarski, a major figure in European nuclear energy development; William Meggers, noted National Bureau of Standards spectroscopist; and the renowned theorist John Van Vleck.

Another outstanding and heavily used feature of the Library is its collection of oral history interviews with eminent scientists, containing over 3,000 hours of interviews. Most of these interviews are transcribed. The Guide includes abstracts of all of the open access interviews in the Library. The oral history collection is particularly strong in the areas of nuclear and high-energy physics, modern astrophysics, solid state physics and laser science, but many other fields are represented.

The Guide also includes descriptions of items in the Niels Bohr Library's Miscellaneous Physics Collection (originals and photocopies of many significant letters, manuscripts, and research and student notebooks), its Manuscript Biography Collection, and its Institutional History Collection. The Library's extensive holdings of correspondence and other papers on microfilm (including the Archives for the History of Quantum Physics and Sources for the History of Astrophysics) are also described, as are the audio visual holdings including video tapes, film footage, tape recordings of public reminiscences, and of course the Emilio Segré Visual Archives, from which several favorite photographs were selected as illustrations for the Guide.

The guide is available in Hard Cover ($135) ISBN 1-56396-379-5, and Soft Cover ($75) ISBN# 1-56396-435-X through AIDC, 64 Depot Road, Colchester, VT 05446; 800-488-2665.

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