News: News Archives
Online Features Ease Access
to Materials in AAAS Archives
Through an online search of the AAAS Archives, science historian Bruce Lewenstein discovered where he might find papers documenting a 1950s controversy over battery additives. He hopes to use the information to shed light on contemporary issues regarding how industry has influenced science.
"As someone who has been using the AAAS archives for more than 15 years, I'm finding the online finding aid a tremendous help," says Lewenstein, an associate professor of science communications at Cornell University. "I'm discovering where there are folders of information in various individuals' files that I might find interesting, but had been too obscurely filed to find."
One year after the launching online of the AAAS Archives, the site has become a useful source of information for historians and for people interested in the relationship between science and national policy. Developed under the leadership of AAAS Archivist Amy Crumpton, the website also tells the story of the organization, beginning in 1848, and recounts the merging of the journal Science with what became its parent organization.
History of Science Reflected in AAAS Papers
A sense of how the role of science and scientists has evolved in the last two centuries can be seen in reviewing just two of the hundreds of resolutions passed by the AAAS Board of Directors-the first in Philadelphia in 1848, and the second in Boston in 2002.
On 24 September 1848, during the first meeting of the entity that would become AAAS, the organization's Standing Committee thanked the Committee on the Sediments of the Mississippi River, and requested that its members continue their work, "with a view of ascertaining and reporting the probable effect which the reclaiming of the drowned lands of that river would have upon the improvement of its navigation, and the health of the country in the vicinity of the drowned lands."
Almost 154 years later, the AAAS Board of Directors issued a statement noting, "the intense debates within our society on the issue of human cloning." Responding to society's need for guidance from the scientific community, the Board endorsed "a legally enforceable ban on efforts to implant a human cloned embryo for the purpose of reproduction," while supporting stem cell research, "including the use of nuclear transplantation techniques (also know as research or therapeutic cloning)."
New Search Mechanism
The archives website also provides a searchable database of information on people, meetings, official documents, and publications. Using the new "finding aid," visitors to the site can discover what box in the archives contains a document they might be interested in reading. They can also review the titles of many documents collected during the tenure of any individual AAAS officials to see what might be relevant to their search.
"Our website statistics indicate that actual users seem mostly drawn to features like the list of AAAS publications and to the list of AAAS resolutions," says Matt Zimmerman, a AAAS program associate, who provided technical expertise for the online version of the archives. "It seems that a lot of our visitors are looking for information on past reports or statements. That's consistent with the feedback I've heard from fellow staff members who often look through the resolutions list. It allows people working on science and public policy issues to easily view AAAS's statements on important issues."
Lewenstein says the online service helps him decide what documents he would like to review in the AAAS Archives.
"It makes it much more efficient for me to plan a research trip to AAAS," says Lewenstein. "I can ask the archivist to have a box of materials ready for me, so that I can get right to work when I get there."
31 December 2002