Archival and manuscript materials are the
fundamental building blocks of history. Like the interactions
of molecules which determine the macroscopic properties of a gas,
the interactions of individuals in history are the fundamental
units of historical experience. Notebooks, letters, and administrative
records document these interactions in their most candid and unadulterated
form, before they have been "sanitized" for publication.
These materials form the foundation for quality historical reconstructions
These records should be of interest to scientists as well as historians. Not only are they the "heirlooms" of the present atmospheric science community, they also have a role to play in modern science. For example, descriptions of instruments and techniques are found in the records which may be used to evaluate and possibly recover some of the massive amounts of data collected in an earlier era. Consider the climatic reconstructions possible from a single entry in the Records of the Weather Bureau in the National Archives: DAILY OBSERVATIONS OF METEOROLOGY AT MILITARY POSTS, 1819-1916: ca. 660 vols. 60 ft.!
At the Conference on Science Manuscripts sponsored by the National Science Foundation and held in Washington, D.C. in 1960, Edward Lurie issued a call for directories of unpublished documents in the history of science:
There is an obvious need for topical guides to manuscript materials in the history of American science similar to those available to scholars in other branches of historical study.
However, little has been done to date in any
of the scientific specialties to respond to this call.
While the history of science in general has
developed rapidly in the past 40 years, the history of the atmospheric
sciences remains, as yet, relatively undeveloped. The valuable
pioneering works of W.E.K. Middleton on the meteorological instruments,
David M. Ludlum on American weather, and Donald R. Whitnah on
the U.S. Weather Bureau were all written in the 1960s. Hopeful
signs of renewed interest, however, are now emerging. The American
Meteorological Society has a series of "Historical Monographs,"
and an active Committee on the History of the Atmospheric Sciences
(CHAS). Moreover, the field is receiving increased attention
from historians of science.
This volume, a "Guide" to archival
and manuscript holdings in the Washington, D.C. area, serves a
response to Lurie's call and an electronic research aid for historians interested
in the atmospheric sciences. Washington D.C., because of its
enormous libraries and its role as home to the National Weather
Service and its predecessors, was a logical place to begin. To
compile this volume, the collections of several major depositories,
such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the
Smithsonian Institution were searched by the author. Other institutions with archival holdings
were surveyed by mail, with follow-up phone calls and visits to
those reporting relevant holdings. John Kutner assisted with the original survey and Chris Griffith was in charge of HTML markup for the revised Web edition.
Included in this volume are the locations and descriptions of significant documents, personal papers, special collections, taped interviews, and historical maps and instruments found during a survey of 19 major depositories. Entries for collections at obvious locations like the NOAA Library appear along with those from surprising ones, such as the Archives of the Circuit Court of Fairfax County. Small collections, occupying less than a page in the guide, are included along with the giant collections of the National Archives which (in the original printed edition) took 90 pages to describe even briefly. References to biographies and bibliographies of prominent atmospheric scientists and administrators are also included.
I hope that this Web edition of the Guide to Historical Resources is of some use to researchers interested in the history of meteorology and encourages historians and archivists in other fields to produce electronic guides to their archival sources.
1 See also: "Daily Observations of Meteorology at Military Posts"
2 Edward Lurie, "Some Observations on Research in Nineteenth-Century American Science," in Nathan Reingold, et. al. "The Conference on Science Manuscripts," Isis 53 (March 1962): 21-30.
This volume also contains the following relevant articles: Harry Wolf, "Manuscripts and the History of Science," 3-4; Richard H. Shryock, "The Viewpoint of an Historian and a Manuscript Librarian," 9-13; R.G. Hewlett, "A Pilot Study in Contemporary Scientific History," 31-38; A Hunter Dupree, "What Manuscripts the Historian Wants Saved," 63-66; Harry Alpert, "Science Records: Viewpoints of the Sociology of Science," 67-71; Hugh Odishaw, "What Shall We Save in the Geophysical Sciences?," 80-86; Nathan Reingold, "Subject Analysis and Description of Manuscript Collections," 106-12; and H. Bentley Glass, "The Scientist and the Preservation of Science Manuscripts," 136-42.
3 A notable exception is Gavin D. R. Bridson, et. al. comps., Natural History Manuscript Resources in the British Isles, (London and New York, Mansell and R.R. Bowker Co., 1980).
4 E.g. W.E.K. Middleton, The Invention of the Meteorological Instruments (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1969); David M. Ludlum, The History of American Weather, 4 vols. (1963-70); and Donald R. Whitnah, A History of the United States Weather Bureau (Urbana, IL: Univ, of Illinois Press, 1961).
5 AMS Historical Monographs include H. H. Frisinger, The History of Meteorology to 1800 (1977); Gisela Kutzbach, The Thermal Theory of Cyclones: A History of Meteorological Thought in the Nineteenth Century (1979); John F. Fuller, Thor's Legions: Weather Support to the U.S. Air Force and Army, 1937-1987 (1990); and James Rodger Fleming, ed., Historical Essays on Meteorology, 1919-1995 (1996).
6 Robert M. Friedman, Appropriating the Weather: Vilhelm Bjerknes and the Construction of a Modern Meteorology (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1988); Robert Henson, Television Weathercasting: A History (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990); James Rodger Fleming, Meteorology in America, 1800-1870 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1990); Frederik Nebeker, Calculating the Weather: Meteorology in the Twentieth Century (New York: Academic Press, 1995); and Fleming, Climates of Opinion: Understanding Climate Change from the Enlightenment to Global Warming (Oxford University Press, 1998).