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NEH Awards Sixth Microfilming Grant to Harvard University Library

Harvard University Library (HUL) has received a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support the preservation of materials about the history of science. The $923,519 grant underwrites the microfilming and preservation of approximately 8,000 volumes from four Harvard collections:

  • the Frances A. Countway Library of Medicine;
  • the Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames;
  • the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology; and
  • the John G. Wolbach Library of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

This is the sixth NEH microfilming grant awarded to Harvard and the third for preservation of history of science materials. The grant is one of four such awards made by the NEH specifically for the preservation of brittle books and serials. Significantly, the grant brings the cumulative total of NEH support for HUL's microfilming programs to nearly $10,000,000 since 1989.

"This sixth NEH grant to the Harvard University Library is a significant endorsement of Harvard's preservation programs," stated Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library. "These programs allow us to make durable, distributable copies of materials that might otherwise become unusable. At the same time, we are careful to conserve and maintain the materials in their original forms. Thus, we ensure that the intellectual content in question can be made widely available without compromising the original materials."

The four collections affected by the NEH grant were initially of interest solely to scientists. As time has passed, however, these materials prove increasingly valuable for the evidence they provide about the nature of scientific inquiry and the myriad effects of science and technology-thus demonstrating a connection between the sciences and humanities.

The Frances A. Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard Medical School will provide approximately 3,230 volumes related to the history of medicine. These 19th- and early 20th-century volumes will be selected from collections on infectious diseases, diseases of the nervous system, and public health.

The Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames will provide approximately 3,000 volumes published between 1800 and 1950 related to the history of economic botany. This collection is notable for the age and variety of its materials about the anthropology, geography, pharmacology, chemistry of plants, and agriculture.

The Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology will provide approximately 1,320 volumes about zoological exploration. These volumes document scientific expeditions and travel that illuminate the uses of animals for food, commerce, religion, tourism, ornamentation, and recreation.

The John G. Wolbach Library at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics will provide 450 volumes related to the history of astronomy. Filming these volumes of astronomical observations made by both professional and home astronomers will complete a project to secure as comprehensive a set of this historical data as possible. The US Naval Observatory and other astronomy libraries around the world contributed to this endeavor by supplying volumes that were not in the Harvard-Smithsonian collection.

For more information about this grant or the library preservation program at Harvard University, please contact the Weissman Preservation Center at 5-8596.

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Last modified on Thursday, April 18, 2002.