Stanford Library’s archival collections are unusually strong in the history of modern technology, thanks to its acquisition of numerous collections related to the history of computing and Silicon Valley and its 1999 acquisition of the personal archive of Buckminster Fuller, one of the most notable engineers and architects of the last century. Two websites, the 2000 "Making the Macintosh" and forthcoming "Fuller in the Fifties," have been based on material from these physical collections.
This talk describes some of the lessons learned in these two projects. The first portion will concentrate on practical matters: what skills have proved most useful to develop, what tools have been especially valuable, and the planning that should go on before work begins on a site. In the Macintosh and Fuller projects, ingenuity and strong knowledge of a few key pieces of hardware and software have proved much more valuable than lavish funding. Knowing how to use the tools you have at hand is more important than having the most impressive and up-to-date tools. Likewise, knowledge of Cascading Style Sheets, batch processing, simple spreadsheet and database development has proved more useful over the long run than knowledge of flashier, more esoteric things like Java or Shockwave.
In the second part of the talk, I will describe some of the implications these projects hold for archival practices and collections development. The Macintosh project became a kind of magnet, attracting new collections of private papers, documents, and artifacts. It also served an unexpected pedagogical function within the community of Macintosh creators, giving them a sense of what kinds of materials historians and archivists find valuable. Finally, it brought to light materials that were of great interest, which owners were willing to share but not donate. Arguably the greatest achievement of the Macintosh project was its creation of a digital collection of materials that might otherwise have never become public.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has worked at Stanford University as an historian and Web developer since 1999. He received a doctorate in History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and has taught at Stanford, Berkeley, U. C. Davis, and Williams College. He spent three years as deputy editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and part of the group that moved the Britannica onto the World Wide Web. He is the author of numerous articles in scholarly journals, essays in popular journals like The American Scholar and The Atlantic Monthly, and a forthcoming book, a history of Victorian solar eclipse expeditions.
Producer, "Making the Macintosh" http://library.stanford.edu/mac/
Project Manager, Buckminster Fuller Digitization Project
H & S Programs
Stanford University Library
Stanford, CA 94305-6004