AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXIX , No. 1, Spring 2007

 

Preserving the History and Heritage of
Agilent Technologies, Part II
by Karen Lewis (For Part I see Fall 2006 Newsletter, p.3)

Click here to read part I


A famous shot of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard
in their garage in Palo Alto, 1939. The
instrument is a “200 series” audio oscillator,
Hewlett Packard’s first product. They picked
the number becausethey thought it sounded good.
Courtesy Agilent History Center

Why a History Center? Many companies use their histories as a marketing tool, but visitors to the Agilent Technology’s History Center learn about much more than current business prospects. At the History Center, visitors are
introduced to Silicon Valley’s formative influences—a com-pany with a nearly seventy-year tradition of science and technology invention and model business practices.

On November 18, 1999, Agilent Technologies set a record for Silicon Valley with the largest stock ‘Initial Public Offering’ up to that time (at $2.1 billon). However, the actual story of Agilent began in 1939 with two people, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, working in a now legendary garage at 367 Addison Avenue in Palo Alto, CA. Although attempts were made as early as 1970 to preserve Hewlett-Packard Company’s historical material, a professionally administered archival program did not officially begin until 1987 as a 50th anniversary project. During that year it became a permanent program within Corporate Public Relations Services, charged with identifying, collecting, preserving, and providing access to materials that document the company’s history, philosophy, policies and products.

In 1999, when the test and measurement portions of Hewlett-Packard were spun off to become Agilent technologies, the collection was divided along product lines. The HP company archives founder, Karen Lewis, went to Agilent with the test and measurement portion of the collection. In 2005 ownership of the collection was transferred to the Agilent Technologies Foundation. It is in this context that the Foundation’s executive director, Karen Lewis, developed the History Center, which puts a public face on the company’s contribution to local, state national and international history.

When the Agilent Archives was transferred to the Agilent Technologies Foundation the collection was appraised. According to the appraiser, author and history of science specialist Jeremy Norman, “The Agilent Company Archives contains primary source materials of the highest possible historical value of the type most sought after and used by historians of twentieth century applied science, technology and business. [It is] one of the most historically significant company archives.”

Core elements of the collection include: Printed materials such as annual reports, product catalogs, and company publications, such as the first weekly employee newsletter, dating back to 1943, which documents the culture of the World War II years in a West Coast, applied technology company. Visual Collections that illustrate products and process, plants, activities and events and employees from 1939 to the present. The Oral History Collection which contains over one hundred interviews with former executives, scientists, engineers, salespeople and office and factory workers. The Archival Material forms the largest element of the collection, and includes the records of top-level planners, decision makers and scientists. This material is regularly transferred to the History Center’s Archives for permanent preservation.

The History Center provides research services and interpretive tours for the general public. Within the context of the growth and development of California’s dynamic Silicon Valley, the collections and the guided tours provide an explanation of the development and evolution of applied technology in the 20th and 21st centuries, the history of globalization of the technology business and the roots and practices of a renowned business culture, emulated the world over.

For further information please feel free to contact Devon Dawson at 408-553-7571, email: devon_dawson@agilent.com


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AIP History CenterCenter for History of Physics
E-mail: chp@aip.org
Phone: 301-209-3165
American Institute of Physics 2006 American Institute of Physics,
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