Ex Libris Universum: From the Library of the Universe. This blog, published by the Niels Bohr Library & Archives and Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics, intends to do just that - bring you into the library of the universe. The librarians, archivists, historians, and special guest authors featured on this blog provide a behind the scenes look at the history and collections they preserve and make accessible, the hidden figures and stories they make known, and the services they provide to the history of science community and the public.
We frequently publish interviews and guest articles on Ex Libris Universum. If you or someone you know would be interested in interviewing or writing for Ex Libris Universum, we would love to be in touch at [email protected]. Subjects for interviews and guest authors have included, but are not limited to: people with general interest in the history of science, book authors, NBLA researchers, donors to the collections, and National History Day award recipients. Publication of interviews is not an endorsement of the interviewee’s opinion.
We are proud to publish articles by American Institute of Physics staff, past and present, as well as articles by volunteers and guests. The Head Editor of Ex Libris Universum is Corinne Mona.
Joanna Behrman is the Assistant Public Historian at the Center for History of Physics (CHP). She holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and specializes in the history of women in physics. At CHP she is in charge of education and outreach projects. One of her favorite works in the collection is Dorothy Weeks’s unpublished memoir.
Caption: Madalyn Avery, Household Physics Laboratory Manual (New York: Macmillan Company, 1940), page 8
Camryn Bell was the Wikipedia-in-Residence at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from UC Berkeley with a certification in New Media studies. One of her favorite collections at the NBLA is the John Irwin Slide Collection from the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, which features hundreds of informal portraits of physicists. As a Wikipedian, her work focuses on bridging the NBLA’s collections with platforms including Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and Wikidata. You can follow her Wikipedia work directly through her user account CamrynBell.
Caption: Camryn Bell in Wenner Collection in the NBLA archives
Chip Calhoun is the Digital Archivist. He has a B.A. in English Literature and an MLS, both from the University of Maryland, College Park. He handles archives collections, including digital collections, and oversees information systems such as the library catalog and other databases. One of his favorite books in the collection is The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan.
Caption: Cover image of The Demon-Haunted World
Emma Goulet is a student earning her Physics, Psychology, and Astronomy bachelor's degrees from Saint Anselm College in 2023. She was an intern with the Center for History of Physics and the Niels Bohr Library & Archives in the summer of 2022, researching the underrepresented voices of Katherine Clerk Maxwell and Émilie du Châtelet. Emma loves spending time with her pets (or friends) doing anything outside and is a passionate foodie in her free time.
Caption: A mother ‘photoshopped’ out of a nineteenth century photograph. Photo inspiration from the hilarious Atlantic article “Victorian Mothers Hid Themselves in Their Babies’ Photos” by Alicia Yin Cheng and Erin Barnett. Image credit: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Lee Marks and John C. DePrez, Jr. (2019.1840).
Skye Haynes is the Digital Marketing Specialist for the American Institute of Physics. She’s the face behind AIP’s social media posts, and helps keep our website up to date. Skye studied Astronomy, Communication, and Black Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, and earned her BA in 2019. When she isn’t posting and scrolling, Skye enjoys cooking on her #foodstagram and curling up on the couch with her family to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race reruns.
Caption: The Moon taken from Yerkes Observatory. AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Roman Collection
Liz Holdzkom, archivist, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Elon University in North Carolina, and graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park with a Master's in Library and Information Science. For her final semester in graduate school, Liz worked with the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives to prepare for the migration to a new management system. She has since become a Digitization Specialist with LAC Group. Now that she’s completed her degree, she’s making more time for hiking, catching up on her reading list,and new sewing projects.
Caption: Read about friendships in physics in Liz’s Strong Bonds article, such as William Paul and Richard Zallen, pictured here at the Harvard semiconductor-group picnic, 1961. Credit: Steven H. Groves, courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Zallen Collection
Samantha Holland was the AV & Media Archivist. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Humanities with a concentration in English from the University of Hawai’i- West Oahu and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. One of her favorite collections in the archives is the William F. Meggers films. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her dogs, watching movies, and listening to music (preferably the Beatles).
Caption: A still image from one of the Meggers films showing Megger’s travels to Dublin, Ireland, to attend the International Astronomical Union Ninth General Assembly in 1955.
Max Howell is the Manuscript Archivist. They have a B.A. from the Evergreen State College and an MSLIS from Simmons College. Maxwell handles the manuscript collections by accessioning, processing, describing, and providing access to researchers. One of their favorite books in the collection is The Bastard Brigade by Sam Kean.
Cover image of The Bastard Brigade
MJ Keller is a student earning their Bachelor of Science in Astrophysics and a minor in music at the University of Rochester. They are the 2023 Niels Bohr Library & Archives/Center for the History of Physics intern researching the Tuskegee Airmen meteorologists, atomic theory, and physicists living and working in Washington, D.C. One of their favorite books in the NBLA collection is The Alchemy of Light and Color by Oliver Leslie Reiser, a small text from the 1920s. Outside of libraries, they're passionate about cosmology research, musical theater, big cat conservation, and experimenting with cooking.
Caption: Messier 97, commonly called the Owl Nebula due to its appearance, as imaged by MJ with the Mees Observatory .6-meter optical telescope in spring 2023.
Gergana Kostova was the Rare Book Project Cataloger. She holds an advanced degree in history of literature from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, Bulgaria, and a master’s of library science from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has a background in electronics and digitization. Here at the Niels Bohr Library and Archives she is cataloging rare books and serials from Wenner Collection. One of her favorite books from the library is Sylva Sylvarum by Francis Bacon.
Caption: Images from Sylva Sylvarum
Audrey Lengel was the Digital Collections Manager at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. She has a B.A. from Temple University (Go Owls!) and an MLS from the University of Maryland. Often, she can be found walking dogs for an animal welfare organization. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of her favorite books at NBLA is Max Goes to the Moon by Jeffrey Bennett and illustrated by Alan Okamoto.
Caption: Image from Max Goes to the Moon
Corinne Mona is the Head Editor of the Ex Libris Universum blog. She is also Assistant Librarian at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. In addition to a master's degree in library & information science, she also holds advanced degrees in music performance and French. Here at the Niels Bohr Library and Archives, she wrangles books and journals by cataloging, shifting, buying, and promoting them. Corinne considers herself a librarian flutist or flutist librarian depending on the day, as she is also a professional musician and flute teacher. Outside of work, she also loves reading, baking, and studying animals, especially true seals. One of her favorite books from the library is Women Spacefarers by Umberto Cavallero.
Caption: Astronaut Catherine Coleman is featured in the book Women Spacefarers. She played this traditional Irish flute and tin whistle in space on St. Patrick’s Day in 2011 at the International Space Station. Photo is public domain through NASA.
After raising two excellent children and following her husband overseas several times, Sally Newcomb re-joined the academic world to add to her B.S. in chemistry. This resulted in a master’s degree in geochemistry, and another with the Committee on the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Maryland. Sally taught inorganic chemistry and physical geology at Prince George’s Community College, but retired to write history of the geosciences full time. This resulted in Special Paper 449 with the Geol. Soc. of America and a number of articles, serving as Chair of her GSA division and co-leading a Pardee session on the history of the ophiolite concept, as well being elected a Fellow of GSA.
Caption: Burning mirror in Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon’s Suppléments à l’Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière, Vol. II, which you can read more about in her article about this set of books. Burning mirrors were used to achieve high temperatures in Buffon’s era.
Hannah Pell is a science historian and writer who has worked with the American Institute of Physics on two separate occasions, most recently as a Research Assistant. She has been published in Physics Today, Physics Buzz, Radiations Magazine, and The Science Teacher. She earned a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in Music from Lebanon Valley College, and a Master of Arts degree in Music Theory from the University of Oregon. She is also an alumna of the Fulbright Program. One of her favorite physics history books is The Ghost in the Atom: A Discussion of the Mysteries of Quantum Physics, edited by P.C.W. Davies and J.R. Brown.
Caption: The cooling towers of Three Mile Island serve as the backdrop to a historical marker about the 1979 nuclear accident. You can read more about Three Mile Island in the article Three Mile Island: On the 1979 Accident and Its Decommissioning Forty Years Later. Photo by Hannah Pell.
Allison Rein is the Associate Director of Library Collections & Services. She has a B.A. in history from UMBC and an MLS from the University of Maryland. She spent nearly 10 years working in libraries and archives before coming to AIP. She manages the book collection at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives and if she had to pick a favorite book in the entire collection it would be Radium Girls by Kate Moore. Her favorite thing about working at the Library (and any institution she’s ever worked) is how much she’s constantly learning.
Caption: Maria Goeppert Mayer posing in a bat costume
Caitlin Shaffer was the Library Project Assistant. She holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from George Washington University, and she studied History as her minor. She helps assess the condition of the library’s rare book collection as she prepares the books for a collection move. One of her favorite books from the Niels Bohr Library is Water Wonders by Jean Thompson. In her spare time, Caitlin enjoys recommending Young Adult books and creating content for her Bookstagram feed. She also likes to support Storiarts, a small bookish business that donates a portion of each purchase to fund literacy for children.
Caption: Photo by Caitlin Shaffer as @spinesthatshine: Caitlin’s Nancy Drew book collection and Storiarts Nancy Drew writing gloves
Justin Shapiro is a historian of the environment and technology. His interests include environmental justice, climate history, the environmental history of cities, and the history of infrastructure. His most recent publication can be found in the October 2022 issue of the Journal of Transport History. During his time at NBL&A, Justin has enjoyed researching the history of climate science, the history of the African American presence in physics, and pseudoscience, among other topics.
Maura Shapiro was a Podcast and Outreach Coordinator for the Niels Bohr Library & Archives' Initial Conditions: a Physics History Podcast (to be released Summer 2022) and has since moved on to other roles within AIP. She interned with the Niels Bohr Library & Archives and Center for History of Physics in the summer of 2021. She earned degrees in both Physics and Communication & Rhetoric from the University of Pittsburgh and loves hiking, biking, and almost anything outdoors!
Caption: An artist's concept of NASA Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, one half of the twin rover mission, on the surface of Mars. Opportunity diligently worked for almost fifteen years, surpassing its 90 sol (martian day) lifespan by 5,262 sols or almost 6,000 percent.
Maria Stokes was the 2020 Society of Physics Students Intern with the Center for History of Physics and the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. She develops teaching guides for CHP and works on outreach for NBLA. Maria earned a HBS in Physics and a HBA in History from the University of Utah. She enjoys photography and camping.
Caption: The Western Veil Nebula: One of the brightest objects in the x-ray sky. Image by Ken Crawford.
Sarah Weirich was the library's Metadata Specialist. She earned a B.A. in Art History from St. Mary's College of Maryland and an MLIS from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her work at NBLA involved processing new acquisitions and works to increase the accuracy and accessibility of the library's existing catalog records. One of Sarah's favorite books in the library is The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher. In her spare time, Sarah can be found watering the disturbing number of plants in her apartment.
Caption: M.C. Escher "Relativity" 1953 lithograph