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Weissman Center Completes Sixth NEH Microfilming Grant

In June 2004, the Weissman Preservation Center completed its sixth preservation microfilm project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This latest project, like the two that preceded it, focused on preserving some of Harvard's most remarkable collections of historic books and journals that document the history of science. The intellectual content of a total of 5,335 titles in 7,434 volumes from four of Harvard's science libraries, printed on highly acidic wood-pulp paper, was preserved on high-quality master microfilm that will last for centuries. During this project, the Harvard University Library passed a milestone by cataloging and microfilming, with support from NEH, its 100,000th volume over the course of this and the five previous projects. To date, a total of 101,404 decaying volumes (64,987 titles) have been preserved, yielding a total of 16,953,392 frames of film.

Bibliographic records for microfilmed titles were enhanced to meet present-day standards, thereby providing thorough and reliable intellectual access to all materials. These records were exported to OCLC, an international bibliographic database widely consulted by students and scholars. Service copies of all microfilm created through NEH-funded projects are available on site, as well as through interlibrary loan for a standard fee. Copies are also available for purchase by institutions and individuals.

The collections preserved during the just-completed project were carefully selected from four libraries. They included:

  • 2,028 volumes from the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology that document both the history of zoological exploration and the lives of prominent scholars of natural history. Many of the titles filmed describe the voyages and discoveries of storied ships such as the Challenger, the Alert, the Chelyuskin, and the Beagle; and are of fundamental scientific importance.
  • 3,056 volumes from the Harvard Medical School's Countway Library that cover the history of medicine. Subject areas include hygiene, military and naval medicine, medical jurisprudence, toxicology, therapeutics, and tropical medicine. Titles from Countway's noteworthy collection on military medicine span the period from the United States Civil War through World War II.
  • 1,056 volumes from Harvard's Botany Libraries, including 846 volumes from the Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames about the history of economic botany. Additionally, works filmed covered the related topics of medical botany (including pharmacopeias) and edible and poisonous plants. Over 200 volumes of floristic treatments of geographical areas from the collections of the Arnold Arboretum Library and the Library of the Gray Herbarium were also filmed, continuing work begun in a previous NEH-sponsored project.
  • 1,294 volumes of serial publications from the John G. Wolbach Library of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics that document the history of astronomy. The efforts of the staff of the Wolbach Library to compile complete runs of serials by obtaining missing issues through interlibrary loan produced one surprising corollary benefit: they alerted an astronomical institution in Russia of the existence of an issue from one of that institution's own serial publications that was thought never to have been published.


Last modified on Friday, September 17, 2004.