Documents and Web Exhibits
When is a historical Web exhibit finished? Never! History is not static, for newly revealed documents and new concerns push us to take a fresh look at past events. Unlike a book, a presentation on the World-Wide Web can incorporate such changes. The Center for History of Physics makes a particular effort to keep its online exhibits current, for they are viewed every day by thousands of people, particularly students.
For example, there has been much interest and controversy recently about Werner Heisenberg's visit to Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1941 (see this Newsletter, Spring 2000 and Spring 2001). This February, the controversy led to the Bohr family's release of letters that Bohr drafted but never sent to Heisenberg (available at www.nbi.dk/NBA/papers/introduction.htm). Visitors to the Center's exhibit, Heisenberg/Uncertainty (www.aip.org/history/heisenberg) might well expect to see something about all this. The exhibit's author, Heisenberg biographer David Cassidy, kindly wrote a supplemental page, and this together with supplemental links has been added to the exhibit (www.aip.org/history/heisenberg/bohr-heisenberg-meeting.htm).
Another example came a few years back with the discovery of some Einstein letters, coming on top of other research and discussions. Changing times also contributed to greater frankness about the difficulties of Einstein's marital relationships. The result was a rephrasing of a few sentences in the Center's most popular exhibit, Einstein: Image and Impact (www.aip.org/history/einstein). The small but significant changes were worked out in discussions with leading Einstein scholars.
On a more minor note, when the transistor-radio pioneer Akio Morita died in 1999, we added the information to his thumbnail biography in the Transistorized! exhibit (www.pbs.org/transistor). The History Center produced this jointly with PBS and ScienCentral, and has taken responsibility for keeping it up to date. Other changes made from time to time include additions of new publications in bibliographies and, all too frequently, removal or redirection of links as other Web sites change their addresses or even their nature (one link, originally useful, took to selling T-shirts).
As our online offerings grow it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain currency and quality. We hope that users of the exhibits will alert us to changes worth making.