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.
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.
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.
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!