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October 31, 2007

Lessons from TCART

Following is a report from yesterday's TCART symposium about some things we learned that could be relevant to researchers as well as archivists!

-An archivist from Target Corporation noted that the primary client for corporate or business archives is always the corporation itself. Thus, many times public researchers will be turned away. He said not to despair, however, but try to contact a corporate archives anyway if there's a chance it has useful information for you - there's always a chance that you'll be given access.

-One panel focused on issues of security and privacy in archives. The main lesson I took from this session was that different types of archives (e.g., corporate, academic, public) have different types of access restrictions on their collections. CBI has a few restrictions on some of its collections, for instance, mainly dealing with proprietary issues for corporations. Always check the finding aids for information on restrictions - they will warn you in advance if you will not be allowed to look at the documents.

-Finally, a member of the Digital Collections Unit talked about the University of MInnesota's effort to preserve U of M web sites in our digital conservancy. If you have an interest in institutional history, definitely check out the University Digital Conservancy - it's fascinating.

October 30, 2007


This afternoon, Arvid and I will be attending the Twin Cities Archives Round Table Symposium. Unfortunately, this means that we will be unavailable on the chat service from about 12:30 CDT through the end of the day. However, we should be able to report back about issues important to archivists - and researchers - everywhere. Scheduled sessions relate to current legal and technological issues in archives.

We will be listening to presenters from the Minnesota Historical Society, Cargill Corporation, Target Corporation, the Minnesota Public Library, various University of Minnesota archives and special collections units, and the Minnesota State University-Mankato. We will be sure to let you know what we've learned.

October 29, 2007

Related Resources

On CBI's web site, we maintain a list of related resources that might be useful to individuals doing research in the history of computing. These include archival collections at other institutions such as the Library of Congress or Stanford University, but they also include web sites and databases. Some of the databases state "Available to U of M faculty, staff, and students only." If you are at a different institution, and the resource sounds interesting to you, check your college or university's library web site. There's a good chance that your library will subscribe to the database as well. If you're not sure, ask a librarian!

October 26, 2007

CBI Call for Papers

CBI is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a workshop and conference on History Gender and Computing on May 30-31st 2008. The details of the workshop and conference will be forthcoming but for now please check out the Call for Papers here. Proposals for papers and posters are due by December 1, 2007.

October 25, 2007


A blog hosted by SHOT, the Society for the History of Technology, contains news items and information for the benefit of historians and others interested in the history of technology. Recent posts include job listings, conference announcements, information about events, and announcements of academic fellowships and stipends.

October 24, 2007

Digital Hand

We are excited to have received a copy of the recently published third volume of The Digital Hand, Jim Cortada's survey of the effect of computers on industry in America. The entire work is now available here for research. Along with the volumes, Cortada has generously donated to CBI his research materials for The Digital Hand as well as some other documents. We are working on processing this collection, and it should be available for research soon. Keep watching this blog for updates!

October 23, 2007

IT History Society

A new (or revived) organization called the IT History Society has been established. This society was formerly the Charles Babbage Foundation (CBF), which at one point was affiliated with CBI. As its overall mission, the ITHS "intends to help the process of creating and preserving the historical acting as an international information point concerning IT history." (from the web site)

The web site has some pretty interesting and useful information, including current and upcoming archival and historical projects in the history of information technology. Specific to CBI, there's also news (in the Other News section) about Jeff's appointment as editor-in-chief of the IEEE Annals of Computing . I will definitely be returning to this web site for updates, and I hope that CBI will be submitting information about its proposed and ongoing projects.

October 22, 2007

Primary Source Research

Here's a link from the University of Minnesota Libraries' web site on primary sources - what they are, how to use them, how to find them, and how to evaluate them. If you have to do a research project and aren't quite sure where to begin, this might be a good site for you.

And don't forget, CBI has a lot of both primary and secondary sources in our archives!


As some of you already know, WorldCat is an online library catalog that allows you to search the holdings of libraries everywhere, rather than just your own public or academic library. Before, however, the full version of WorldCat was only available through a library (that is, if I wanted to search WorldCat, I'd have to go to the University of Minnesota Libraries' home page and click on a link available there). However, it seems that WorldCat is now available on the public Internet. I looked at the "About" page and it seems that there are several features still unavailable on this version, but it looks like it could be really useful anyway. Check it out and let us know what you think.

October 19, 2007

Burroughs Photographs

Archival research doesn't always have to be about coming into the library to look through documents. As both an archivist and a history major, I really like old papers, but you might not all feel the same way that I do. In recognition of this fact, a lot of archives are digitizing important collections and making them available on the Web (I've talked about this in previous posts).

CBI's current contribution to this phenomenon is our database of Burroughs Corporation photographs. The Burroughs Corporation was a major manufacturer of adding machines and then a major computer company. Along with the Control Data Corporation Records, the Burroughs Corporation Records are one of our largest and most used collections. Feel free to look through the photos that are available online - it's a great way of doing historical research without having to leave your desk.

We are working on a couple more digitized collections as well, and we'll let you know as they become available.

October 18, 2007

Crossing Borders

From the H-Sci-Med-Tech listserv - the International Committee for the History of Technology put out a call for papers for its 2008 symposium, entitled "Crossing Borders in the History of Technology." It looks like graduate students are encouraged to submit papers, as well as experienced historians.

Speaking of listservs, if you're interested in history (not just the history of computing), you should investigate H-Net. You can join any number of listservs on just about any historical topic imaginable. I'm personally on the listservs for H-Sci-Med-Tech (the history of science, medicine, and technology, obviously), H-Grad (for graduate students in all historical disciplines), and H-Info (the history of libraries and information). If you go to and click on "Discussion Networks" at the top, you can view the entire list of possible networks to join.

October 17, 2007

The Students of CBI Sound Off

Hello. I'm Jessica H, a student worker here at CBI. I've been processing a new collection that I thought I'd mention, in case it's of interest. As a humanities student, the subject matter with which I work at CBI is often far removed from my normal sphere of study, so imagine my delight when my latest project focused on a computer programming language created to be used by other English majors like myself. The Charles Hall Papers trace the development and use of SNOBOL, a text-string oriented language widely used in the 80s and early 90s. It's been a fascinating read and once the EAD is finalized and online, I hope you enjoy perusing this collection as much as I have enjoyed working on it.

October 16, 2007

Chat Issues

It seems as though we might be having some technical difficulties with the chat software. Either Arvid or I should be on as CBI Archivist all day, but sometimes it seems to take a minute after you get on the site for it to register that we're online. Be patient for a couple seconds and the message should switch to "CBI Archivist is online," and you should be able to IM us. Sorry! Let me know if you've tried unsuccessfully to get in touch through chat and what the problem was.

American Archives Month

October is American Archives Month! If you're new to historical research, you might wonder just what it is that we do. Well, the Society of American Archivists (, not or you'll get the archaeologists instead) put together a brochure for students, and others new to the field, entitled "What is an Archives?" Check it out.


SHOT, the Society for the History of Technology, is holding its annual meeting this coming weekend. It's also the beginning of SHOT's 50th anniversary celebration, an exciting milestone. As you might imagine, SHOT has a strong CBI connection. Jeff and Tom will both be in Washington, DC for the weekend, playing an active role in the conference, as will several historians from other institutions who have used CBI for recent or past research.

October 15, 2007

Digitization of Oral Histories

We have some exciting news - CBI has just received an internal grant to digitize and make available on our web site 50 of our oral histories. Oral history transcripts are already available here, but once the 50 that we choose have been digitized by the Libraries' digital collections unit, you will be able to listen to the oral histories on our web site.

We would love to hear your suggestions for ones that you think would be valuable for this project, and we will do what we can to include them. Please comment below!

Minnesota Digital Library

If you are interested in Minnesota history, check out the Minnesota Digital Library. This resource digitizes and provides free online access to historical photographs and documents that were supplied by libraries, archives, and museums from all around the state.

October 12, 2007

Not Here Today

"IM an Archivist," our chat service, will be out of commission much of the day today, because Arvid and I will both be attending the Control Data Corporation's anniversary celebration. However, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me!

October 11, 2007

Bibliographic Software

Do you have trouble keeping track of all of the sources that you might like to use in your research? For the past couple of years, there have been several new online bibliographic tools to help you organize and cite your sources. These tools will help you create citations to articles or books in an online catalog or database, store them, and export the citations into a Word document should you decide to use them in your work.

You may have heard of RefWorks and EndNote, which have been available for several years. RefWorks is free through the University of Minnesota Libraries after you create a user name and password. (If you are on another campus, you may have a free subscription as well. Check your library's home page or talk to a librarian.) More recently, for Firefox users, a tool called Zotero was developed. Zotero, an extension for the Firefox browser, will actually sense if there is a potential resource on a web site that you are on and automatically create a citation that you can save or pass over. Along with citations, it will store web pages, PDF files, and other documents. And, it's free, whether or not you have a university account.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these services, but each of them makes keeping track of resources a lot easier than it used to be. Please feel free to comment below this post on the pros and cons to these tools.

Finding Books and Serials at CBI

In addition to the corporate records and personal papers at CBI, we also have extensive print materials. Some books and serials can be found in the finding aids database, because individual books and serials sometimes come to us as part of a collection and recently we have accepted some donated collections consisting entirely of books and serials. Donated collections will be cataloged but in order to speed up access for you we are creating finding aids. Other print materials that are not described in finding aids can be found in MNCat, the library catalog for the University of Minnesota. So when searching for materials at CBI be sure to look in both the finding aids database and in MNCat.

October 10, 2007

New Finding Aids Available

I am happy to report that we've just added five new finding aids to our web site. Following is a brief description of each collection.

The Gordon Everest Collection of Monographs on Database Development contains books on various database management topics.

The Sperry and Unisys Reference Manuals are a collection of programming and operating reference manuals for computing systems.

The Walter A. Kleinschrod Collection of Word Processing Monographs and Serials includes books and journals on the development of word processing technologies.

The Donald G. Aronson Papers contain documentation on the development of the Manchester Computer.

Finally, the Robert M. Price Papers are a collection of documents that contain information on the recent administration of the Control Data Corporation and the National Center for Social Entrepreneurs.

We hope that these collections will be useful to you in your research!

Extended Hours

To accommodate researchers who may not be able to get here during normal working hours or who need a little extra time in the archives, Andersen Library's reading room will now be open until 8:00 pm on Thursdays. CBI may not individually remain open unless we have advance notice that someone will want to use our collections, though. So, if you'd like to come in to do some research on a Thursday evening, let us know and we'll be here.

October 9, 2007

Course Instruction Sessions

If you are teaching a course here at the U, Arvid and I are available to lead instruction sessions for your students. We can cover many different topics either generally related to information literacy (e.g., how to use primary sources) or more specifically on how to use our archives. We can teach the courses here in Andersen Library or we can come to your classroom. Just let us know - we'd be happy to help you out!

October 8, 2007

Control Data Corporation 50th Anniversary

The Control Data Corporation, a computer manufacturing company established in 1957, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. Former CDC employees were here at CBI last month doing research in their company records, which CBI holds. The research that they did will be used in an exhibit and a slideshow for the anniversary celebration.

The CDC Records are one of the largest and most heavily used collections that we have. The records document many aspects of the history of the U.S. computer manufacturing industry from the 1950s through the 1990s. The collection includes a large number of photographs, a database of which will be online and available for use through the CBI web site by next summer.

October 5, 2007


Welcome to the Charles Babbage Institute's news and information blog. My name is Stephanie Horowitz and I am CBI's assistant archivist. Other people who work here and who may contribute to the blog include Arvid Nelsen, the CBI archivist; Tom Misa, CBI's director; Jeff Yost, the associate director; Katie Charlet, the secretary; and Sasha Grossman, Jessica Huffman, and Kevin Irving, our student assistants.

The Charles Babbage Institute is an archives and research center at the University of Minnesota, dedicated to preserving the history of information technology and promoting and conducting research in the field.

CBI's blog will contain up-to-date information about new collections, events, and other items that you might find useful. Keep checking back for new posts, and feel free to comment or to email us with any questions or suggestions.