The Importance of History
The Silicon Valley Archives have been a dynamic and strong component of the Stanford Libraries’ collecting program since 1983. For more than two decades, the Archives’ holdings have helped economic historians to understand the technological drivers of economic growth, historians of science and technology to piece together the development of key ideas and technologies, business historians to understand cluster effects and patterns of growth in Silicon Valley, and social historians to elucidate the origins and diffusion of technologies that have changed the world. As one graduate student who used the collections extensively in dissertation research explains, “The value of the primary source documents in the Silicon Valley Archives was absolutely incalculable. Memories can fail, stories can be skewed, but the page from a fifty-year-old lab book or the ideas someone jotted down at a meeting in 1958 are as close as we historians will ever come to a time machine that can take us back to the moment we're studying.”
People beyond the academy, too, appreciate the you-are-there sense that comes from archival materials. Numerous documentaries have used the Archive’s holdings, as have many outside researchers.
Archival materials acquired by the Silicon Valley Archives are housed permanently in the Stanford University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and University Archives, where they are open to qualified researchers regardless of affiliation.
Library professionals with special experience in manuscripts and archives are available to assist researchers. Descriptive guides provide detailed information about the collections. Guides are accessible in the reading room, through Stanford’s electronic catalog, and over the World Wide Web. In addition, the computerized catalog of the Online Archives of California and the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) provides online bibliographic access to related collections at major research libraries and archives around the country.
The Special Collections and University Archives staff takes preservation seriously. All materials are catalogued by professionally trained staff and stored in acid-free containers in a secure facility under environmentally controlled conditions. Special attention is given to the long-term preservation needs of photographs, audio and video tape, computer hardware and software, and other forms of digital information.
All materials in the archives are non-circulating and must be used in a reading room equipped with a security system and monitored, at all times, by a knowledgeable staff member.
Researchers are required to sign a formal agreement establishing the conditions of use of the collections; at the same time, the researcher is asked to state the purposes of the research and the anticipated final product of the work. After thus signing into the reading room, the researcher must place all personal belongings in lockers provided just outside the reading room. To protect archival materials, the use of pens is not allowed in the reading room. Patrons may use pencils or laptop computers when working with materials.
Inspecting the First Klystron
L-R: Sigurd Varian; Russell Varian; David Webster, John Woodyard, and William Hansen. From the Varian Collection.