The Caltech Archives and Special Collections collects records that provide unique documentation—beyond that already in the Caltech Archives or elsewhere—that can “facilitate understanding of Caltech’s role in the history of science and technology, and of the research and lives of its faculty, staff, and students.”
Consistent with Caltech’s institutional commitment to diversity, and to provide as complete a historical record as we can, the Caltech Archives prioritizes records that document identities and experiences that are not already well-represented in our collections, including those of people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ people.
We prefer to collect records in the media in which they were intended to be experienced. We collect email in digital format rather than printed out, for example, and magazines in print rather than the computer files used to create them.
With these principles in mind, we seek out and accept donations and transfers of the following records:
- Papers and other unpublished records, including digital media, that document research, education, administration, and community life at Caltech. These include the professional and personal papers of Caltech faculty, as well as those of staff, alumni, and other affiliates who maintained long, close relationships with the institution. They also include records of administrative units, such as divisions and laboratories, that are responsible for research, communication, and community, and of student organizations. We have a particular mandate, documented in Caltech’s records retention schedule, to collect records of the Office of the President. Within these bounds, specific documents we collect include:
- Correspondence, including email, documenting research and all other aspects of the life of a collection’s creator. Correspondence is usually the portion of a collection which attracts the greatest research interest, and thus our highest collection priority. It documents not only the research and career of a collection’s creator, but also those of their colleagues, as well as relationships between people.
- Documentation of the life and career of a collection’s creator and those of their colleagues, students, and family, including diaries, CVs, and letters of reference.
- Documentation of the process of research, including laboratory and field notebooks and other research notes.
- Documentation of the administration of research, including grant applications, memoranda, reports, and summary budgets.
- Unpublished research papers.
- Unpublished texts and recordings of lectures and speeches.
- Original teaching materials, including syllabi, assignments, and lecture notes, that document innovative or unique pedagogy or curricula.
- Documentation of the work of a collection’s creator as a consultant or advisor to corporations, governments, and other organizations.
- Documentation of the public communication of research, including records of administrative units responsible for outreach and public relations.
- Records of committees and administrative units administering research, education, and community life, including charters and meeting minutes.
- Documentation of community life, including records of student organizations.
- Papers and other unpublished records that document the research and educational work of other scientific and scholarly organizations founded or led by Caltech faculty or staff.
- Recordings and transcripts of interviews with Caltech faculty, staff, and students. The Caltech Archives also actively creates such content by conducting oral history interviews.
- Recordings of Caltech events.
- Photographs and artistic representations of Caltech’s faculty, staff, students, and campus, or created by Caltech’s faculty, staff, and students.
- Architectural and campus plans and other records that document Caltech’s facilities.
- Small scientific instruments and other artifacts that document practices of research at Caltech, especially those invented or first used here.
- Publications of Caltech, its constituent administrative units, and its student and community organizations, including video, websites, and other electronic media as well as print.
- Publications, including books and documentary films, that are:
- Produced by Caltech faculty, creators of archival collections, or subjects of oral histories.
- About Caltech or its faculty, staff, or students.
- About closely related places, including Pasadena, and closely related institutions, including other technical institutes and southern California universities.
- Researched in the Caltech Archives.
- Publications required for the work and professional development of Archives staff.
- Rare books that support research and education in history of science, history of the book, and related fields.
The Caltech Archives does not collect records outside of the above categories. In particular, we do not collect the following records, which are collected by other departments of the Caltech Library or by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Archives:
- Publications beyond those listed above, which are collected selectively by Caltech Library’s Department of Research Services.
- Journal articles, reprints, and technical reports, which are collected in CaltechAUTHORS.
- Theses, which are collected in CaltechTHESIS.
- Research data in modern digital formats, which are collected in CaltechDATA.
- Records of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and its employees, which are collected by the JPL Archives.
When considering possible donations of papers and other unpublished records, we also consider whether other archival collections associated with the same individual or institution are already housed in another archives. Because collections are most intellectually valuable and accessible to researchers when they are unified, we may suggest that donors continue to deposit in the same archives.
Since our focus is on science and technology at Caltech, in most cases we do not accept collections that primarily document the careers of Caltech alumni after graduation. We do assist donors, though, in finding appropriate repositories for such collections, including at the institution in which the alumnus in question worked or at other repositories such as:
- American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library & Archives for physics.
- American Philosophical Society Library for life and physical sciences.
- Charles Babbage Institute Archives for computing and information technology.
- Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives for genetics, molecular biology, and biotechnology.
- Computer History Museum for computing and information technology.
- Duke University Economists’ Papers Archive for economics.
- Huntington Library for aeronautics, astronomy, civil engineering, electricity, mathematics, medicine, natural history, and physics.
- Linda Hall Library for books and periodicals in science, technology, and engineering.
- National Air and Space Museum for aviation and spaceflight.
- National Museum of American History for historical artifacts of science and technology.
- Pasadena Museum of History for Pasadena history beyond Caltech.
- Science History Institute Archives for chemistry, chemical engineering, and life sciences.
- Stanford University Silicon Valley Archives for science and technology in Silicon Valley.
- University of Texas at Austin Archives of American Mathematics for mathematics.
In making decisions about what records to collect, Caltech archivists may also consult the professional literature on archival selection and appraisal, including:
- Frank Boles, Selecting & Appraising Archives & Manuscripts (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2005).
- Michael Schallcross and Christopher J. Prom, eds., Appraisal and Acquisition Strategies (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2015).
Guides to selection of records of the history of science and technology include:
- Clark A. Elliot, ed., Understanding Progress as Process: Documentation of the History of Post-War Science and Technology in the United States (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1983).
- Joan K. Haas, Helen Willa Samuels, and Barbara Trippel Simmons, Appraising the Records of Modern Science and Technology: A Guide (Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985).
Similarly, guides to selection of college and university records include portions of:
- William J. Maher, The Management of College and University Archives (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1992).
- Helen Willa Samuels, Varsity Letters: Documenting Modern Colleges and Universities (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1992).
- Christopher J. Prom and Ellen D. Swain, eds., College and University Archives: Readings in Theory and Practice (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2008).