AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XL , No. 1, Spring 2008

AVS Preserves Historical Materials in Vacuum
and Related Technologies

AVS, a society dealing with the science and technology of materials, interfaces and processing (formerly the American Vacuum Society) first formed a History Committee in 1968, but the committee dissolved in 1973. It was revived by action of the AVS Board of Directors in 1986 with the mandate to acquire and store historical books, documents, pictures, and artifacts relevant to the interests of the Society and to ensure the maintenance of its historical records, including the technical memoirs of people who had made major contributions to the related science and technology, such as winners of the major AVS awards. The twelve members of the committee usually have a considerable AVS history of their own. In 2007 their combined terms of membership totalled over 360 years; five members were Past Presidents of AVS.

One major activity began during the 1990s when Jim Lafferty, a former President, began to videotape interviews with winners of the Society’s major awards and other individuals who had played a significant role in Society activities or the associated science and technology. To make these available to the public and with the assistance of the AIP Center for History of Physics, the interviews are being transcribed, edited and mounted on the AVS Web site. Currently about 30 oral histories are available and others are being added. Also available on the Web site is an expanded and revised "Vacuum Timeline" in PowerPoint, showing significant dates, events, people and organizations involved in the development of vacuum technology and related fields over the past five centuries. For deeper study, the Website hosts a comprehensive history of the Society, its Divisions and Chapters. Please visit

AVS has an archive of over 6000 photographs of people and events over its history. Original prints of some of these are kept in the AIP’s controlled environment, and electronic versions of all photos are available at the AVS office in New York City. Vacuum pumps, gauges and equipment have been collected over the years and are now stored outside New York City; some items have been displayed at past symposia. To make the whole collection available, a "Virtual Museum" project is underway; photos and explanations will be available on the Web site. Old and rare books relevant to the activities of AVS are purchased when possible and are also available for displays. Archival records of the Society are transferred annually to AIP for archival storage, with an electronic index of the contents maintained by the New York office.

Various histories have been prepared over the years to recognize special events, such as the 30th and 40th anniversaries. These have usually been printed but, when AVS celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2003, it was possible to present the comprehensive Web-based history of the Society mentioned above without the costs associated with printing. Special commemorative volumes on the relevant technologies have also been printed: History of Vacuum Science and Technology volumes in 1983 and 1993 and a volume of review articles in 2003. The Committee also organizes special sessions at the AVS International Symposium to commemorate special events.

Adapted from the AVS Online History

AVS timeline
A section of the AVS timeline at

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