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


International Catalog of Sources Project
Makes Information Available Online

The AIP History Center is beginning to upload to an online service the information we gather and catalog, describing the location and contents of papers of individuals and institutional records relating to physics and allied sciences. Our International Catalog of Sources (ICOS), searchable under standardized index terms for people, institutions, and topics, provides an invaluable aid to historians of science when they design research programs. Enchancement of the ICOS, made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation, is based on mail surveys of domestic and foreign repositories. We are cataloging the new information on an in-house database; as segments are completed, they are being uploaded to the "Research Libraries Information Network-Archives and Manuscript Control" (RLIN-AMC). This online database of the Research Libraries Group is accessible at most major academic libraries.

The wide range of repositories covered by the foreign ICOS survey (from traditional archives and national libraries to laboratory facilities) produced survey returns that often proved challenging to the cataloger. Problems such as illegible handwriting and uncertainties in translation for specialized technical terms, not to mention cataloging rule changes following the political upheavals in Germany and the former Soviet Union, all slowed the rate of cataloging. Nevertheless over 400 records received through our foreign surveys were processed since last July, and there are only a few left to catalog. We have been able to shift emphasis to the processing of United States survey returns, where some 1,000 new or revised domestic records remain to be cataloged.

The process of uploading to RLIN-AMC is fairly straightforward. Selected records are sent on a diskette to the Research Libraries Group (RLG) for processing. They conduct their own testing to check for errors; based on their findings we make any necessary changes in our own system prior to final upload into RLIN-AMC. The majority of the British records (around 750) were recently sent to the RLG for processing and should be available online shortly; this is in addition to a first batch of 250 records already online. Over the next few months we plan to upload much of the remaining cataloged foreign material. Meanwhile we are always willing to search our in- house ICOS database at the request of researchers.

47 repositories reporting collections to the ICOS also report to the RLIN-AMC. We have been reviewing the RLIN-AMC database and comparing the results with the information we hold on these repositories. For the 47 repositories, so far we have found 1,506 relevant records; 508 of these were already in the ICOS, leaving 998 we had not known about. For the same 47 repositories we already had reports of 1,093 records, of which 585 are found only in the ICOS. The figures showing the lack of overlap are far larger than we estimated ahead of time. With the permission of the repository, we will download relevant records to our ICOS database, and assign index terms as appropriate; later we will process the records these repositories have not yet reported to RLIN-AMC. Meanwhile we are taking up the many additional records in U.S. repositories that have never reported anything to RLIN-AMC.

For further information contact Caroline Moseley, project archivist, e-mail:

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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