500+ Oral Histories Now Online

By Julie Gass

Accessing major resources in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives has become much easier. Researchers can read many of our oral history interviews, the most used collection in our library, from their own workspaces. We now have over 500 oral history transcripts mounted on the Web, including most of the most used and significant.

We’ve reached this major milestone with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and thanks to the hard work of the project team. The grant-funded work ended in December 2009, and we’re continuing to digitize additional oral histories, albeit at a slower pace.

The oral history collection at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives is rich in the history of modern physics, astronomy, geophysics, and allied sciences. Interviewing projects done by the Center for History of Physics have concentrated on multiple aspects of physics. Therefore, the oral history collection in its entirety covers a wide breadth of physics-related sciences, while the projects that comprise the collection provide in-depth knowledge of the individual disciplines themselves.

We concentrated on digitizing these projects so that users have a broad range of materials to access and because they include a number of the most important physicists in modern history. For instance, some of the oldest oral histories belong to the Archive for the History of Quantum Physics project. These interviews include many of the most well-known faces of 20th century physics. Niels Bohr, Hans Bethe and Werner Heisenberg are just a few of the physicists that researchers can find in this collection. We also digitized many of the oral histories included in the Sources for the History of Modern Astrophysics, which features interviews with leading astronomers and astrophysicists. Also digitized are projects based on history of the laser, solid state physics and industrial physics.

Researchers can access these oral history interviews several ways. You can go to our digitization project’s home page at http://www.aip.org/history/nbl/ohiproject.html and read about the project as well as listen to compelling excerpts from 24 interviews. There, you can also find a link to an alphabetical list of physicists whose digitized interviews are online. A click on the name will take you directly to the interview. Links are also provided in results from searches done in the library’s International Catalog of Sources (http://www.aip.org/history/icos).

The library’s catalog records are also indexed by major search engines such as Google and Yahoo, so performing a search on a physicist will often yield results from our catalog.

The digital oral histories will facilitate research around the world, since researchers are only several mouse clicks away from reading these materials. In fact, they already have. In 2009 the digital oral histories received over 37,000 web hits, and we expect that the number will increase as we continue in our endeavor to mount the entire collection online.

As always, we at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives look forward to hearing from our users and appreciate any feedback. If you have any questions or comments please contact us at .

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