AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXIX, No. 1, Spring 1997

 

World Survey of Archives for International Catalog Completed

The AIP Center for History of Physics has completed surveys of archives around the world, helping to double the amount of information in its International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences (ICOS). The reliability, indexing, and accessibility of the ICOS have also been markedly enhanced. The ICOS contains information about the papers of scientists-chiefly 20th century-working in physics and related fields, and also the records of institutions such as academic physics departments and research laboratories. (See spring 1996 Newsletter for details on contents and use.) The Center began building the catalog as a cardfile in the early 1960s. Under grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation the ICOS has grown to a database containing fully cataloged and indexed records describing 3,250 collections with many more in process.

The ICOS is a truly international catalog. 1,861 of the records describe collections in foreign repositories; the remaining 1,389 records reflect holdings of 186 different United States repositories. Efforts to strengthen the foreign component of the catalog proved very successful. Our contacts sent us information on around 1,300 collections not known to us before, and updates on others from Australia, Austria, Czechoslovakia, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

The grant funding ended in mid-1996, but work continues under funding from AIP and the Friends of the Center for History of Physics. Staff continue to pursue contacts abroad for additional records. Meanwhile there remains a substantial backlog of cataloging work; we have information on an additional 1,600 collections from U.S. repositories which should be added to the ICOS. Many of these were identified through a comprehensive search of the national online archival database of the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN). About 1,000 of these records can be downloaded directly from RLIN into the ICOS; the remaining 600 collections will require full cataloging. This effort should be completed by mid-1998.

Center staff will continue to add to the ICOS using information gained during their efforts to preserve papers of scientists and through semiannual surveys of selected repositories (see this Newsletter, "Documentation Preserved" article). The majority of records are uploaded into RLIN as they are cataloged, thus making the indexed information available to researchers online. In addition, the Center plans to make the in-house catalog available on the Internet via AIPīs World Wide Web site. Once the backlog of cataloging is complete a CD-ROM version of the ICOS will also be considered.


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