AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXV , No. 1, Spring 2003

 
Robert Thompson (left), Manager of the Space Shuttle Office, shows President Nixon (right) a model prototype for the space shuttle during a tour of the Johnson Space Flight Center, March 20, 1974.
Robert Thompson (left), Manager of the Space Shuttle Office, shows President Nixon (right) a model prototype for the space shuttle during a tour of the Johnson Space Flight Center, March 20, 1974. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland, Nixon Presidential Materials, Still Photo Collection #E2474-10.

 

Science Resources in the Nixon Presidential Materials
by David J. Mengel, Supervisory Archivist

One of the most exciting scientific accomplishments of the twentieth century occurred during the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Almost everyone old enough can remember where they were on July 29, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed. While the moon landings are the most widely remembered scientific accomplishments of the Nixon administration, his records also include information on the development of the joint US-USSR Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the Skylab missions, telecommunications, Super Sonic Transport (SST) airplanes and the Space Shuttle. With the exploration of space came a new awareness of environmental issues during the Nixon years, as evidenced by the passage of legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act of 1970. The energy crisis of 1973-74 pushed forward the development of solar energy, Project Independence, the Alaskan pipeline, and the use of nuclear energy for power and propulsion.

Several textual collections within the Nixon materials provide excellent overviews of science issues. The White House Special Files contain the records of the President’s key advisors, including H.R. Haldeman, John D. Ehrlichman, Charles Colson and John Dean. Among the White House Central Files (WHCF) there are several subject categories relating to science, including Outer Space (OS) and Sciences (SC), which includes the subtopics of earth science, exploration, cartography, meteorology, engineering, oceanography and physical science. Perhaps the most detailed collection of science related documents within the WHCF is the office files of Edward E. David, Science Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology (OST). This collection includes 45 cubic feet of files discussing budget issues, energy, environment, the National Science Foundation (NSF), oil, and space, just to name a few.

Glynn Lunney (left), Technical Director of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, shows President Nixon (right) a model of the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft docked during a tour of the Johnson Space Flight Center, March 20, 1974. Dr. James C. Fletcher (middle), Administrator of NASA, watches from the background.
Glynn Lunney (left), Technical Director of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, shows President Nixon (right) a model of the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft docked during a tour of the Johnson Space Flight Center, March 20, 1974. Dr. James C. Fletcher (middle), Administrator of NASA, watches from the background. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland, Nixon Presidential Materials, Still Photo Collection #E2469-18.

Due to the circumstances surrounding President Nixon’s resignation, Congress passed the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA). This act seized all materials created during the Presidency of Richard Nixon and deposited them with the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for storage, processing and review. There are approximately 46 million pages in the Nixon Presidential Materials Collection. Of these, approximately 7 million pages have been processed for use by researchers. The archival collection also includes 3,700 hours of the Nixon White House tapes, 500,000 photographic images, 700 hours of film, 4,000 hours of video recordings and 4,469 audio recordings; all these collections contain science related information. Finding aids for all publicly available collections are available through the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, on the Internet at www.archives.gov/nixon/about_nixon/historical_materials.html, or in the main research complex at the NARA’s Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland.

Researchers should be aware that some documents may be restricted by processing guidelines which prohibit release of certain types of information due to sensitive subject matter. Sensitive topics include National Security Information, Personal/Privacy restrictions, Presidential Recordings and Materials Act (PRMPA) restrictions and violation of federal statutes.

For more information on the Nixon Presidential materials, researchers can view our Web site at www.archives.gov/nixon, contact us by phone at (301) 837-3290, or send an e-mail to nixon@nara.gov.


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