Call for Papers: “To Boldly Preserve: Archiving for the Next Half-Century of Space Flight”

“To Boldly Preserve: Archiving for the Next Half-Century of Space Flight”
Center for the History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics
College Park, Maryland
March 1-2, 2018
Paper, Presentation, and Roundtable Proposals Due October 1, 2017

Preserving the history of space exploration faces unprecedented challenges and opportunities in this digital, big data era. New forms of electronic communication and data including oral histories and social media are changing the nature of historical records and increasing their ease of collection.

Even as early generations of researchers, engineers, administrators and users retire, the number of countries, organizations, businesses, and other non-government actors involved in space is sharply expanding. Relying on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for U.S. government records management, while still essential, is increasingly inadequate. Furthermore, most of humanity experiences space exploration either as users (e.g., communications and weather) or as a source of imagination and enthusiasm. How do we document and archive the activities of hundreds of actors in space? How do we archive the experience of users? How do we archive imagination?
The internet and widespread use of digital media have spurred tremendous popular interest in do-it-yourself oral history and other emerging methods for archiving among people not classically trained as historians, archivists, or records managers. Done well, these bottom-up approaches could greatly expand the availability of historical records — especially by groups, organizations, and individuals not fully captured by government archives.

To examine critical issues in creating, collecting, preserving, and accessing space archives worldwide, this conference will bring the historical and archival communities together with space industry, records management, digital humanities, and library media management professionals. The conference will 1) explore data management strategies and toolboxes of exemplary best practices, 2) provide a variety of archival models for oral histories, digital, print, and less conventional collections management (such as software and artifacts), 3) disseminate these strategies and practices to space stakeholders, and 4) encourage underrepresented minorities and communities to create and archive their contributions to space history.

To encourage discussion, we will pre-circulate conference papers to registrants and post them to the conference website. An edited volume based on the conference will be published as well as guides of best practices. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Space archives: The first half-century
  • Space archives: Contemporary and future issues
  • Archiving space-based business and operations
  • Collecting and contextualizing social media, hardware and software
  • Integrating Do-It-Yourself history with archives
  • Legal concerns: Intellectual property rights, classification, Nondisclosure Acts, ITAR, records management, archiving by lawyers
  • Contract history: Templates for a successful project
  • Getting buy-in from individuals and organizations
  • Reaching underrepresented people and areas
  • Archiving the experience of users
  • Finding archival partners and solutions
  • Ensuring access: Data management, ADA
  • Dissemination and diffusion of best practices

While focused on space history, this NSF-funded conference aims to have a much larger impact by providing recommendations on policy and best practices. This conference addresses issues faced by all areas of STS and history – encouraging high quality “history from below,” using new electronic technologies, preserving a wild range of materials, and educating a new generation of stakeholders.

The workshop will be conducted in English. The organizers can assist with travel and accommodation expenses for presenters. Please send a one-page abstract and one-page CV as one PDF file to by October 1, 2017. Decisions about acceptance will be made by November 1, 2017.

For more information, contact Jonathan Coopersmith (, Angelina Callahan (, or Greg Good (

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1 Response to Call for Papers: “To Boldly Preserve: Archiving for the Next Half-Century of Space Flight”

  1. Great post. What an interesting and important subject.


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