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New Growth for HCL's Environmental Information Center

With a new librarian, plans for influential collection expansion, and an intense commitment to interdisciplinary research, Harvard College Library's Environmental Information Center (EIC) is embarking on its seventh year as the locus for interdisciplinary research on the environment. "We want the Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives to be the first place scholars think of when they investigate the shaping of international environmental policy," said George E. Clark, environmental resources librarian and curator of the Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives. Clark, who stepped into his new position this fall, previously worked as a social scientist for the US Environmental Protection Agency regional office in Chicago.

The EIC was created in 1995 by the Harvard University Center for the Environment and the Harvard College Library. EIC's purpose is two-fold: to foster research and communication among all areas of study that deal with environmental issues and to coordinate acquisitions of environmental materials across the university. "Besides providing reference service, the EIC initially existed principally as a web site that offered information pertaining to the environment such as job listings, upcoming events, links to web sites and works by Harvard professors," said Diane Garner, HCL's librarian for the social sciences and the administrator of the EIC.

After the web site was functioning smoothly, the EIC recognized the need for a place to collect and to provide intellectual access to reports, correspondence, and documents generated by the international environmental policy movement. Thus, in 1997, EIC established the Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives, which, since its inception, has developed a significant collection of historical materials, such as correspondence, meeting notes, audiovisuals, technical reports, conference documents, and ephemera relating to international environmental policy. The Archives also includes donors' collections of books, some of which include handwritten marginal notes.

George Clark hopes to expand the current holdings and is working with Amy C. Christensen, archivist, on a strategic collection development plan. Because the environmental movement is relatively new, much of the pertinent material about it exists as reports and papers rather than monographs. Because most of the archive's holdings have come from key individuals who have shaped international environmental policy, the EIC works closely with faculty to locate principle environmental figures who are looking for a place for their materials to be accessed and preserved.

Notable EIC acquisitions include:

  • the Thomas M. Berry Papers, recording the life of this instrumental eco-theologist;
  • the Maurice F. Strong Papers, documenting a 30-year career in environmental fields;
  • the Marion Lamm Mercury Collection, relating to a serious outbreak of Minamata disease among the Ojibwe Indian population of Northwestern Ontario; and
  • the Peter S. Thacher Environment Collection, detailing his experiences as senior advisor to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.

When asked about the future Clark said, "In order to continue to meet the interdisciplinary challenges of environmental questions, it will be important for the Environmental Information Center to nurture connections with other libraries . . . . A question concerning the environment may arise in any area-humanities, government documents, the sciences. The Environmental Information Center supports many interdisci-plinary pursuits, and we hope that librarians in these other areas will point people in our direction when confronted with a question that involves the environment."

For more information, visit the HCL web site, or the Harvard University Center for the Environment web site, located at

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Last modified on Thursday, April 18, 2002.