Humanities for STEM: Using Archives to Bridge the Two Cultures Divide

Two-Year Research Collaborative from the NYU Center for the Humanities

American Museum of Natural History Library Visit

Artifacts atop vertical storage file cabinets

On March 9, 2018 the collaborative visited the Research Library and Special Collections at the American Museum of Natural History. Research Services Librarian, Mai Reitmeyer and Special Collections Archivist, Becca Morgan hosted us for a tour. The library, established in 1869 as a part of the charter for the museum, supports more than 200 active scientific researchers in astrophysics, paleontology, earth and planetary science, anthropology, zoology, invertebrates, and vertebrates departments including those working and studying in the museum. Each of the science departments within the museum also have their own libraries and archives.

AMNH archives

The library currently holds over 1 million photo items including prints and slides. The photos are organized in vertical file storage cabinets and cataloged by area of study. The collection contains a large number of lantern slides that were once used for public lectures at the museum. 

The AMNH Research Library is currently collaborating with the New York-based Women in Natural Sciences Chapter of the Association for Women in Science to the  Untold Stories of Women in Science project.  The scope of the larger project aims to amplify all underrepresented voices in science. Talk about archival silences! 

Lantern Slides from 1930s Women in the Museum Project

Lantern Slides from 1930s Women in the Museum Project


AMNH has also begun to use the archival description standard EAC CPF (Encoded Archival Context for Corporate bodies, Persons, and Families) in order to link relevant records together.  This is important to because it means they can more easily describe something like an expedition, which involves multiple people and may span multiple collections (which are housed in different departments). It also has implications for archival silences, like the stories of local guides hired to aid in fieldwork.  Everyone who worked on the expedition can be linked in the record, for example, the staff who supported the lead scientist, so it’s more robust than a typical finding aid, which usually just lists one person or corporate body as the creator. 

AMNH is also collaborating with the Biodiversity Heritage Library and Internet Archive to digitize field notebooks created before 1923. The notebooks are available through DPLA and Internet Archive. In the Rare Book Room we briefly discussed the differences between scientific field journals, which contain field notes from expeditions, and non-scientific field journals, like those of Ernest Thompson Seton, founder of the Woodcraft Indians and one of the founding pioneers of the Boy Scouts of America. 

Earnest Thompson Seton's Yellowstone Field Journal, 1897Earnest Thompson Seton's Yellowstone Field Journal, 1897


Earnest Thompson Seton’s Yellowstone Field Journal, 1897



AMNH uses rare books with students in middle-school and up. In their summer institute, Coding Climate Change students use map collections and coding to show climate change. Students also view rare books to learn about books as tools of scientific communication and visualization.

Alex Humbolt's Atlas

Alex Humbolt’s Atlas

Lastly, we viewed Louis Renaud’s 18th century fish drawings and the oldest item in the rare book room, a 1551 book from Conrad Gessner, the father of modern zoology. 

Conrad Gessner's Book, 1551

Conrad Gessner’s Book, 1551

Many of AMNH’s collections are available online. Check out some of their resources here and share your thoughts in the comments below:



Symposium registration is open!

Registration is now open for the Humanities for STEM Symposium.

Please click this link to register: Humanities for STEM Symposium registration

You will be prompted to select a date first, then will be taken to the Register button.  From there, you will be able to register for both dates of the symposium.  Please select “Presenter” if you are presenting a paper, “Research Collaborative Member,” if you are currently a member of our Humanities for STEM research collaborative, and “General Admission” for all other attendees (including if you were formerly, but not currently, a research collaborative member).

We hope to see you April 6th and 7th in Brooklyn!


New York Academy of Medicine Archives Visit



Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room

On January 19, 2018, collaborative member and Librarian Arlene Shaner and Rare Books Curator Anne Garner hosted us at the New York Academy of Medicine Library and Archives. The Rare Book and Manuscript Collection contains archives documenting the history of the Academy as an institution since its founding in 1847, the papers of medical organizations and societies, and collections of personal papers, as well as letters, student notebooks, diaries, and physicians’ case records.

We viewed some materials in the collection in the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room, which which contains most of the rare book collection as well many secondary sources in the history of medicine and the history of books and printing.

1873 Prize Notebook from Dr. Gaillard Thomas’ class at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

The manuscript collection includes notebooks from medical students as they studied to become physicians.These notebooks containing class notes, clinical reports, drawings, and lab notes provide great insight into 19th century medical education and notetaking. Some of the notebooks were used as prize notebooks through 19th notebook contests in which students were awarded cash prizes from institutions and faculty members for notable notebooks. Faculty members began to question the integrity of the prize notebooks competitions as it became unclear if students were creating notebooks themselves and the notebooks proved more of a distraction than an enrichment.

Photos from Committee of Twenty on Street and Outdoor Cleanliness collection

In the 1920s and 30s the Academy developed the Committee of Twenty on Street and Outdoor Cleanliness to combat dirt and disease and improve sanitation in New York City. Some of the committees projects included the creation of the sealed garbage trucks and a competition to create public trash cans.

Records on Mount Sinai hospital from the Health and Hospital Planning Council archives


NYAM’s largest collection of over 500 boxes and blueprints is the Health and Hospital Planning Council of Southern New York Archives. The collection includes correspondence, building blueprints, population surveys, studies on disparities and employee handbooks.


Lastly, we viewed the case records of Dr. J. William Littler, founder of the hand surgery unit at what is now St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, a teaching hospital of Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. His patient notes were very unconventional in that he  often created detailed drawing of patients’ cases rather than keeping written records.



Drawings from Littler’s case records



Research Collaborative members and greater Humanities for STEM community, please be sure to check out the New York Academy of Medicine’s Digital Collections or stop by for visit of your own and add your thoughts to the comments!



New York Transit Museum Archives Visit

On November 3, 2017 the collaborative visited the New York Transit Museum Archives at the new Gabrielle Shubert Research Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Archivists, Rebecca Haggerty and Desiree Alden-Gonzalez, hosted us. During our visit we toured the 14,000 square foot collections storage space and viewed some artifacts and archival material. While the Transit Museum was founded in 1976, they did not begin heavily collecting until 1989. Since then the museum’s collections have steadily increasing. The new research center’s growing collection includes 8000 artifacts, 3000 cubic feet of archival material, 250,000 photos and 35,000 architectural engineering drawings. 

Some of the collections and artifacts include:

The Bridges and Tunnels Archive

Bridges and Tunnels archive

“The Fashion Aisle”

Transit Authority Helmets

MetroCard dress









Artifacts from the New York Transit Authority Marching Band

Drum from the New York Transit Authority Band

Hat from the New York Transit Authority Marching Band









Model Trains and Roll Signs

Model Trains, some of which are used in the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central

Manual roll signs used before automated train signs










Research Collaborative members and greater Humanities for STEM community, please be sure to check out some of the 15,000 items in the NY Transit Museum Online Collections Database. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.



Columbia University Health Sciences Archives Visit

On October 13, 2017 the Research Collaborative visited the Columbia University Medical Center Health Sciences Archives and Special Collections located in the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library. Stephen Novak, Head of Archives and Special Collections, hosted the group. During our visit we viewed some of the special collections in the Geraldine McAlpin Webster Reading Room and discussed issues of access to medical records within the collection.

The Columbia University Medical Center Archives and Special Collections collects materials documenting the history of health sciences in general and at Columbia University Medical Center in particular. The archive includes records and materials from the four schools in the Medical Center:

Along the walls of the Geraldine McAlpin Webster Reading Room is part of the 27,000 volume rare book library in the history of the health sciences dating from the 15th into the 20th century (which can be seen in the background of the images below.)

Stephen Novak flips through Volume 2 of Presbyterian Hospital Surgical Case Books

The Archives and Special Collections also has holdings from Presbyterian Hospital (1868-1997), the medical school’s main teaching hospital since 1911 Babies Hospital (now Children’s Hospital), and the Neurological Institute of New York.

We viewed the Surgical Case Books from Presbyterian hospital as well as autopsy reports from 1918, which document influenza related deaths from the early 20th century.

Other extensive collections in the archives include the Auchincloss Florence Nightingale Collection, the Freud Library, the Hyman Collection in the History of Anesthesiology, and the Webster Library of Plastic Surgery.

Jerome Pierce Webster (1888-1974) was a professor of surgery at Columbia from 1928 to his death and was the first director of plastic surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.The Webster Library of Plastic Surgery includes more than 5,000 books, at least 29,000 reprints, and over 100,000 photographs and drawings and documents the history of plastic and reconstructive surgery from the 15th into the mid-20th century.

Plastic Surgery Sketchbook from the Jerome Pierce Webster Papers 1545-1974, Jerome P. Webster Library of Plastic Surgery

As a historian and bibliophile, Webster collected many of the books that this collection now holds. Also within the collection is a number of artist sketch books illustrating plastic surgery operations at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. Almost every type of plastic operation can be found in detailed and vividly colored drawings in the sketchbooks. Ivan Summers has been identified as the artist for most, if not all of the drawings in the series.

We concluded our visit by viewing the psychiatrist’s Ethel Spector Person’s papers relating to her work with transsexuals and transvestites in the 1960s-70, followed by a discussion of records that include Protected Health Information (PHI) as defined by the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which can prohibit access.

Research Collaborative members and greater Humanities for STEM community, please be sure to check out the Columbia University Medical Center’s Collections and add your thoughts on ethical considerations for medical and psychiatric records to the comments below!

Year 2 Kick-Off

Welcome to Year Two of Humanities for STEM!

Lindsay welcomed our new members with a quick introduction of the collaborative goals and an overview of our year two objectives and visits.


Following Lindsay’s introduction, Zakiya reviewed the spring 2018 symposium and the call for papers, which has now been extended to September 30th. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to submit a proposal.


So far, we have received a total of 24 proposals from multiple fields across the country:

To conclude the meeting we discussed the best ways to collaboratively review proposals and form symposium panels.

In regards to collaborative abstract review:

  • What are some of the best practices?
  • What are some of the issues that arise?


Research Collaborative members and greater Humanities for STEM community, please add your thoughts to the comments!


End of the Year Reception

We have officially finished the first year of our two-year research collaborative and we celebrated with an end of the year reception on April 26, 2017. Thank you to all who presented, attended, and engaged in Q&A.

Lindsay started off with an introduction to the Research Collaborative and a review of our meetings and events this year.

Lindsay’s presentation: Intro to Reception and Overview of RC

Following Lindsay’s presentation we had two presentations from members of the research collaborative.

Leah Loscutoff, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Stevens Institute of Technology, introduced us to her new oral history project. Women’s Voices: A Stevens Oral History Project records the stories of women at Stevens and women in STEM fields which have not been well documented in the archives. The goal of her project is to document women in STEM by recording and archiving the stories from Stevens’ alumnae. 

Leah’s Presentation: Women at Stevens

Nicole Callihan, Pedagogical Coordinator for the Expository Writing Program at NYU Tandon, followed up on her November presentation in which she presented an idea to use a series of patents from the Poly Archives in Expository Writing Program classes. Now that the school year has come to an end, Nicole asked her students to provide feedback in order to assess the ways in which the archives and the Poly Archivist have contributed to their learning in first-year writing. Despite this being the first time many of the students had used archival material, there were a host of positive reflections.



Chris Leslie presented the preliminary results from our Archival Sources in the Classroom survey, which investigated the uses and opinions of primary sources in the classroom.





Chris’ presentation: Archival Sources in the Classroom

Zakiya finished our reception by previewing our call for papers for our April 2018 Culminating Symposium.This research symposium is open to faculty and graduate students who are working on case studies, historiographies, pedagogical proposals, and other approaches relevant to the theme of STEM and archival research.

Our abstract submission is September 15, 2017 so be on the lookout for our call for papers, coming soon!

We will resume activities in the Fall. Until then, have a great summer!

Stevens Institute of Technology Archives Visit

On March 24, 2017 the Research Collaborative visited the Stevens Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections housed in the Samuel C. Williams Library. Leah Loscutoff, Head of Archives and Special Collections and collaborative member, hosted the group. Our visit included viewing the library’s special collections and a discussion of practices for using archival material in STEM classrooms, led by IEEE History Center Senior Director, Mike Geselowitz.

The library was founded in 1969 and named after Stevens Graduate, Professor, and Curator of Special Collections, Samuel C. Williams. The library features a number of displays about the history of the university as well as Hoboken, NJ.

Theodore Boettger Collection documents the history and construction of the Holland Tunnel. Donated in 1983.

The first display we saw was the Holland Tunnel display. Colonel John Stevens, renown politician, engineer, and inventor, whose son, Edwin Augustus Stevens, founded the of Stevens Institute of Technology, first had the idea to construct a vehicular tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan in 1806. The Holland Tunnel didn’t begin until 1920 and was completed in 1927 under Chief Engineer, Clifford Holland.


In addition to Colonel Stevens’ inspiration for the Holland Tunnel, he constructed the first U.S. Steam Locomotive in 1825 which helped to inspire the railroad boom of the 1930s for which he is now known as the Father of American Railroads.

Model of Colonel Stevens’ 1825 Steam Locomotive

Before its donation to the Library by an alumnus, the Model of the 1825 Steam Locomotive resided at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.



We also viewed the most notable room in the library, the Stevens Room, which houses Stevens family artifacts and photographs. There we learned about the Stevens Family Home, which was called Castle Stevens by students once donated to the University in 1870.

1825 Steam Locomotive on Circular Track on Colonel Stevens’ Hoboken Estate

Castle Stevens served as student housing until 1959 when it was demolished to expand the campus.



The Library also houses two other Special Collections, the Frederick Winslow Taylor Collection, which features the inventions and personal correspondence of Mechanical Engineer, Frederick Winslow Taylor, and Leonardo da Vinci Collection, which was collected and donated by John William Lieb who became interested as early as 1890 in the work of Leonardo da Vinci while working in Milan, Italy for Thomas Edison.

While in the Leonardo da Vinci Collection, IEEE Director, Mike Geselowitz described his practices for using artifacts from the archives each semester for his class on Engineering History. The artifacts included Babylonian cuneiform, rare books, Japanese katana and Samurai helmet and amphorae. During his first time using archival objects, he used a hands-on method during the class midterm, but ultimately decided that it is an activity better suited for the end of the course. For Mike, the point of the course was to get students to think in a humanistic and historic way. After the class he found that students spent more time in the libraries and also went on to participate in a symposium in which they displayed posters about their experiences. He concluded by emphasizing the importance of using archival materials in engineering classrooms, because it gives students historical context, but includes their interests in engineering, unlike typical history classes.

We ended our visit by discussing our upcoming Symposium in April 2018. We have finalized our panel categories including: STEM General Education, Innovation in STEM, and Ethics in STEM Archives. Be on the lookout for our Call for Papers coming soon!

Research Collaborative members and greater Humanities for STEM community, please be sure to check out the Stevens Institute of Technology’s Digital Collections add your thoughts to the comments!



Surveys, Soliciting Papers, and Saving Climate Change Data

As the primary goal of this collaborative is a culminating symposium in the spring of 2018 surrounding the ways in which the use of primary sources and archival materials can support and enhance scholarship and education in the sciences, we began with a discussion of a survey of NYU faculty regarding the use of primary sources in their classrooms as well as a call for papers for the symposium.  In light of post-inauguration concerns about the precarious availability of federal climate and environmental data, we also engaged in a conversation about archival activism with regard to climate change.

Prior to the meeting, Chris suggested that the group members review the ITHAKA 2012 Faculty Survey which covers the findings from the fifth cycle of the Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey. In the 2012 survey cycle, specifically, the questionnaire was update to include topics of current and emerging interest, which include support service needs associated with changing research methods, data preservation, research dissemination, and undergraduate instruction.

Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey 2012, p.17

While there was a question about the usage of primary sources in the classroom, the question types did not include the definitions of specific terms leaving room for definitional discrepancies between disciplines.

Ithaka S+R US
Faculty Survey 2012, p.12

For our research purposes, we concluded that would be important to identify how different fields may define primary sources as the definitions would affect the reports on their usage. We also discussed beginning the survey by addressing the discrepant nature of defining primary sources, which underlines the need for this research.

While discussing the survey questions and distribution, Chris summarized the process of University Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and the acceptable protocols for our survey research involving human subjects.


Spring 2018 is only one year away and we have big plans for the culmination of the collaborative including: soliciting papers from a wide audience, workshopping the papers at the symposium, and publishing an edited anthology. In preparation all that we have planned, we began brainstorming topics for our call to papers and developing a timeline. Paper topics will range from best practices for collaborations between archivists and teaching faculty to archival sciences. Be on the lookout for our Call for Papers coming soon!

We ended our meeting by discussing archival activism regarding climate change data. Prior to the meeting, group members were encouraged to review information and initiatives surrounding the concerns for the public availability of climate and environmental data in the future.

The Society of American Archivists’ Climate Data Harvest Project page covers a few initiatives and ways to get involved. Much of the information was provided by the Penn Environmental Humanities Lab which has developed the DataRefuge Initiative committed to identifying, assessing, prioritizing, securing, and distributing reliable copies of federal climate and environmental data so that it remains available to researchers. 

There are a number of other initiatives such as University of Texas’ Guerilla Archiving and Project_ARCC’s (Archivists Responding to Climate Change) Climate Change Syllabus. NYU University Archivist, Janet Bunde, has also provided a climate change data resources list, which includes local initiatives, informative background articles, and potential partners for collaborative actions.

With regards to climate change data preservation there are still many pressing questions and concerns:

    • What data (including content and formats) is being captured and where is it being stored or where should it be stored?
    • Preservation programs and initiatives work for publicly available data, but what can we do for data that has not been made available or is in the process of being collected or verified?
    • Are there any plans to make private and unverified data available?
    • Is the archived data discoverable by people who want to see it?
    • How do we document the environment of data creation when data requires approval by a non-scientist? (
    • How do archivists know what to collect and handle appraisal? (See the Southern California Climate Data Protection Project’s Best Practices here)

Research Collaborative members and greater Humanities for STEM community, please add your thoughts to the comments!

New Semester, Updated Member List

With the start of a new semester, we were able to add a three new members to the group.  Welcome, Deena Engel, Anton Borst, and Zakiya Collier!

Our membership for Spring 2017 is:

    • Lindsay Anderberg
      Interdisciplinary Science & Technology Librarian and Poly Archivist
      Dibner Library, NYU Libraries
    • Amy Bentley
      Professor, Food Studies
      Nutrition and Food Studies, NYU Steinhardt
  • Anton Borst
    Instructional Consultant
    The Center for Advancement of Teaching, NYU
    • Janet Bunde
      University Archivist
      NYU University Archives, NYU Libraries
    • Nicole Callihan
      Pedagogical Coordinator
      Expository Writing Program, NYU Tandon
    • Sushan Chin
      Head, Archives and Special Collections
      Health Sciences Library, NYU School of Medicine
  • Zakiya Collier
    Research Assistant, Humanities for STEM Research Collaborative
    Media, Culture, and Communication and Library and Information Science, NYU Dual Degree Masters Program
  • Deena Engel
    Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Computer Science Minors Programs and Director, Program in Digital Humanities and Social Science
    Computer Science, NYU Courant
    • Marina Hassapopoulou
      Visiting Assistant Professor
      Cinema Studies, NYU Tisch
    • April Hathcock
      Scholarly Communications Librarian
      NYU Libraries
  • Juan Herrera
    Graduate Student
    Food Studies, NYU Steinhardt
    • Carol Hutchins
      Head, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences Library
      Courant Library, NYU Libraries
    • Trace Jordan
      Director, Foundations of Scientific Inquiry
      College Core Curriculum, NYU CAS
    • Philip Kain
      Clinical Assistant Professor
      Global Liberal Studies, NYU Arts and Science
    • Chris Leslie
      Lecturer, Science and Technology Studies
      Technology, Culture and Society, NYU Tandon
    • Leah Loscutoff
      Samuel C. Williams Library, Stevens Institute of Technology
    • Bleakley McDowell
      Media Conservation and Digitization Specialist
      National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian
  • Geoff Shullenberger
    Expository Writing Program, NYU Tandon
  • Ben Stewart
    Director of Faculty Development
    Expository Writing Program, NYU
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