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History of Smithsonian Institution Computing Oral History Interviews, 2016-2021

Creator:
Smithsonian Institution  Search this
Subject:
Bridge, David  Search this
Churchman, John H  Search this
Roeper, Carla I  Search this
Russell, G. F (George F.)  Search this
Bearman, David  Search this
Piacesi, Dante  Search this
Mello, James F. 1936-  Search this
Garnett, Thomas  Search this
Henley, Brooke  Search this
Dann, Melanie Cameron  Search this
Howser, John P  Search this
Wang, Ching-hsien  Search this
Smithsonian Institution Office of the Chief Information Officer  Search this
Smithsonian Institution Office of Information Resource Management  Search this
Smithsonian Institution Office of Computer Services  Search this
Type:
Transcripts
Collection descriptions
Compact discs
Digital images
Electronic records
Electronic images
Sound recordings
Date:
2016
2016-2021
Topic:
Information technology  Search this
Computer systems  Search this
Information resources management  Search this
SIRIS (Information system)  Search this
Information storage and retrieval systems  Search this
Museums--Collection management  Search this
Computers  Search this
Interviews  Search this
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Museums and the Internet  Search this
Local number:
SIA RU009637
Restrictions & Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission
Data Source:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_arc_404643

Agency history, 1963-

Creator:
National Museum of Natural History (U.S.) Assistant Director for Automatic Data Processing  Search this
Subject:
Mello, James F. 1936-  Search this
Gautier, T. Gary 1942-  Search this
Daniels, Bruce A  Search this
Type:
Mixed archival materials
Date:
1963
1963-
Topic:
Museums--Automatic data processing  Search this
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Natural History Information Retrieval system (NHIR)  Search this
Smithsonian Institution Information Retrieval System(SIIRS)  Search this
Local number:
SIA AH00089
Data Source:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_arc_217899

Automatic Data Processing - Self-Generated Master (SELGEM) Basics, 1970-1974

Collection Creator::
National Museum of Natural History. Department of Mineral Sciences  Search this
Container:
Box 23 of 29
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 11-003, National Museum of Natural History. Department of Mineral Sciences, Correspondence
See more items in:
Correspondence
Correspondence / Box 23
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-fa11-003-refidd1e6652

Publications

Extent:
0.5 cu. ft. (1 document box)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Books
Serials (publications)
Date:
1972-1983
Descriptive Entry:
This accession consists of publications issued by the Office of Information Resource Management (OIRM), with earlier issues dating from when OIRM was known as the Smithsonian's Information Systems Division and the Office of Computer Services. The publications pertain to the Smithsonian Institution Information Retrieval System (SIIRS) and, beginning in the early 1970s, SELGEM (SELf-GEnerating Master System), which replaced SIIRS. Materials include publications.
Topic:
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Information resources management  Search this
Computer systems  Search this
Information technology  Search this
Information storage and retrieval systems  Search this
Genre/Form:
Books
Serials (publications)
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 87-071, Smithsonian Institution. Office of Information Resource Management, Publications
Identifier:
Accession 87-071
See more items in:
Publications
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-fa87-071

Records

Extent:
3 cu. ft. (3 record storage boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Books
Manuscripts
Date:
1975-1982
Descriptive Entry:
This accession consists of correspondence with domestic and foreign universities concerning the SELGEM computer system. The Office of Computing Services (OCS) files were maintained by S. A. Kovy, Director of OCS, and consist of correspondence, printouts, reading files, and reports.
Topic:
Computer systems  Search this
Information storage and retrieval systems  Search this
Information resources management  Search this
Information technology  Search this
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Genre/Form:
Books
Manuscripts
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 84-204, Smithsonian Institution. Office of Computer Services, Records
Identifier:
Accession 84-204
See more items in:
Records
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-fa84-204

Systems Development Records

Creator::
Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Chief Information Officer  Search this
Extent:
2.53 cu. ft. (2 record storage boxes) (1 document box) (1 oversize folder)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Brochures
Manuscripts
Drawings
Microfiche
Date:
1949-2005
Descriptive Entry:
This accession consists of records documenting the technological advances in computing systems, software and hardware used across the Smithsonian Institution. Many of the records were created by predecessor units of the Office of the Chief Information Officer, including the Information Systems Division, 1968-1974; the Office of Computer Services, 1974-1982; the Office of Information Resource Management, 1982-1995; the Office of Information Technology, 1995-2000; and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, 2000-2001.

Topics documented within the accession include the creation of the SElf GEnerating Master (SELGEM) program; the conversion of SELGEM to Inquire; and the history of the Smithsonian Institution's information architecture and information resource management. Materials include memoranda; reports; reference manuals; brochures; guides and handbooks; briefing materials; planning documents; drawings; microfiche; organizational charts; and presentations.
Oversize:
This collection contains oversize material.
Topic:
Information technology  Search this
Information resources management  Search this
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Computer systems  Search this
Information storage and retrieval systems  Search this
Database design  Search this
Inquire (Information system)  Search this
Genre/Form:
Brochures
Manuscripts
Drawings
Microfiche
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 16-047, Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Chief Information Officer, Systems Development Records
Identifier:
Accession 16-047
See more items in:
Systems Development Records
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-fa16-047

Publications

Topic:
Smithsonian Information Systems Innovations (Serial)
Procedures in Computer Sciences (Serial)
Extent:
0.5 cu. ft. (1 document box)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Serials (publications)
Date:
1969-1975
Descriptive Entry:
This accession consists of publications issued by the Office of Computer Services (OCS), with earlier issues dating from when OCS was known as the Smithsonian's Information Systems Division. The publications pertain to the Smithsonian Institution Information Retrieval System (SIIRS) and, beginning in the early 1970s, SELGEM (SELf-GEnerating Master System), which replaced SIIRS. Materials include the publications "Smithsonian Information Systems Innovations" (Volumes 1-2) and "Procedures in Computer Sciences" (Volume 1).
Topic:
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Information storage and retrieval systems  Search this
Computer systems  Search this
Periodicals  Search this
Information resources management  Search this
Information technology  Search this
Genre/Form:
Serials (publications)
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 13-142, Smithsonian Institution. Office of Computer Services, Publications
Identifier:
Accession 13-142
See more items in:
Publications
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-fa13-142

"SElf GEnerating Master (SELGEM): A System for Collection Management," 1971

Collection Creator::
Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Chief Information Officer  Search this
Container:
Box 1 of 3
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 16-047, Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Chief Information Officer, Systems Development Records
See more items in:
Systems Development Records
Systems Development Records / Box 1
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-fa16-047-refidd1e287

History of Smithsonian Institution Computing Oral History Interviews

Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Transcripts
Compact discs
Digital images
Electronic records
Electronic images
Sound recordings
Date:
2016-2021
Introduction:
The Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff and volunteers conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also reminiscences and interviews recorded by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Descriptive Entry:
Computer technology has been employed for more than fifty years at the Smithsonian. Information Technology (IT) currently supports every facet of the Institution’s operations. The Smithsonian was often a leader in scientific/research use of IT, use of IT to manage museum collections and use of the internet to make collections and research data more publicly available. Thus the history of computing at the Smithsonian is an important component of the history of the Institution. Working with the Institutional History program, three retired longtime IT staff members, David Bridge, John H. Churchman and Carla I. Roeper, volunteered to review existing historic documents (at SIA and other sources), conduct additional research, compile additional documentation including oral history interviews, and prepare an overview of the history of computing at the Smithsonian.

The History of Smithsonian Computing interviewees include David Bearman, David Bridge, Melanie Cameron Dann, Thomas Garnett, Brooke Henley, John P. Howser, James F. Mello, Dante Piacesi, Rusty Russell, and Ching-hsien Wang.

These interviews discuss their contributions to information technology at the Smithsonian from the 1960s to 2000, including the evolution from mainframe computers to desktop to the internet, and applications ranging from scientific data processing, collections management systems, financial and administrative systems, and office applications. The interviews also trace the history of central computing and unit specific support staff across the Smithsonian.

The History of Smithsonian Computing Oral History Interviews collection is comprised of 15 interview sessions, with 10 individuals, totaling approximately 25.75 hours of recordings. In total, this collection is comprised of 35 original digital audio .wav files, 5 original digital video .mp4 files, 35 reference digital audio .mp3 files, and 5 reference digital video .mp4 files, as well as c. 750 pages of transcripts. The interviews were conducted in 2016-2021 by volunteers David Bridge, John H. Churchman, and Carla I. Roeper.

David Bearman attended Brown University and received his Ph.D. in History of Science from the University of Pennsylvania. In the late 1970s, he became involved in issues surrounding how archival information is structured, including work with a Society of American Archivists task force, led by Richard H. Lytle of Smithsonian Archives. In 1982 Lytle became director of the Smithsonian Office of Information Resource Management and Bearman joined him as Assistant and then Deputy Director. Both Bearman and Lytle left the Smithsonian in 1986 to pursue new developments in the field of information technology.

David Bridge attended the University of Maryland, and then Bridge began his career at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Bridge began working in the Division of Birds at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in 1964 and retired in 2006. In 1967 he became involved in a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare grant project, one of the earliest efforts to automate information on collections. He worked for Natural History’s Automatic Data Processing program from 1970 to 1983, for the Museum Support Center from 1983 to 2000 and for the National Museum of the American Indian from 2000 to 2006.

Melanie Cameron Dann received a bachelor of arts degree in administrative science from Yale University in 1979. Dann first worked for General Electric Information Systems as a programmer analyst; then from 1983 to 1991, she was a senior manager with Price Waterhouse, implementing financial systems for government clients. She joined the Smithsonian in 1991 working on implementation of automated financial systems and then became director of advancement operations and systems in the Smithsonian Office of Advancement.

Thomas Garnett participated in a Buddhist program called Karmê Chöling from 1972 to 1976, and obtained a bachelor's degree in Religion at the University of Colorado (1979) and a Masters in Library Science from Catholic University (1980). He worked as an Information Specialist at the General Accounting Office just before being hired by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL) in October, 1982. He also taught at the Naropa Institute in 1977. After coming to SI, he soon was appointed Systems Administrator and oversaw the acquisition, installation and maintenance of three different major library automation software products. He was also program director for the Biodiversity Heritage Library until his retirement in 2012.

Brooke Henley was Chief of the Catalog Records Unit for Smithsonian Institution Libraries and oversaw much of the work of retrospective conversion of card catalog data to machine-readable form in OCLC in the 1980s.

John P. Howser received a degree in accounting at Strayer University in 1959 and worked as an accountant at Safeway from 1961 to 1968. He began his career at the Smithsonian in the Fiscal Division in 1968 and subsequently held managerial positions for many other offices, including the Accounting Division, Treasurer’s Office’s Financial Systems Division, Office of Accounting and Financial Services, Office of Financial Management and Planning, and Office of Contracting and Property Management. He was chairman of the [Data Processing] DP Manager’s Roundtable on two occasions.

James F. Mello graduated from Yale University in 1962 and joined the United States Geological Survey as a paleontologist, stationed at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. In late 1969, he was recruited by Dr. Richard S. Cowan, Director of Natural History, to lead a new office. Mello became Assistant to the Director in January 1970 and was in charge of the Automatic Data Processing Program and contributed greatly to the development of the SELGEM computer system. When Dr. Porter M. Kier became Director of Natural History in 1973, he recruited Mello to be Assistant Director. Mello continued to be deeply involved with computers and data processing issues, and the Under Secretary of the Smithsonian, Robert A. Brooks, tapped him to lead an Institutional study of computer services at the Smithsonian in 1975. He also played an important role as the five-year Congressionally-mandated collections inventory which began in the late 70s, and was followed by the planning to occupy the new Museum Support Center (MSC) and the move of tens of millions of specimens and objects to Suitland, Maryland.

Dante Piacesi joined the central computing organization of the Smithsonian as the manager of the Scientific Applications Division in 1967. Piacesi played a critical role in the development of computer applications in support of Smithsonian researchers and was assistant director of the Office of Information Resource Management from 1982 to until his retirement in 1986.

Rusty [George F.] Russell attended the University of Maryland and then joined the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History in 1975. He became Collections Manager in 1979, the same year his department began a massive inventory of the collection and was deeply involved in the development of collections management systems. In the year 2000, he set up an imaging lab which has resulted in the digitization of some 300,000 specimens. He also initiated the Smithsonian’s Field Book project, a very successful program to digitize field notebooks from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and retired in 2017.

Ching-hsien Wang emigrated from China in 1979 and then attended the American University and Montgomery College where she learned English. At the University of Maryland, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree in 1982. After graduating, she went to work for GEAC which marketed a library automation system and the Smithsonian was a GEAC customer. In 1988, she began working for the Smithsonian providing technical support for GEAC and then for its successors, NOTIS and Horizon. After the departure of the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) director in 1998, Ching-hsien became branch manager. She spearheaded the effort to digitize Smithsonian images for fourteen archives units and to build the first Smithsonian central repository of Smithsonian metadata of libraries, archives, and museums. This repository was the basis for the first Collections Search Center, which enabled the public to search across many Smithsonian assets. She retired in 2020.
Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Topic:
Information technology  Search this
Computer systems  Search this
Information resources management  Search this
SIRIS (Information system)  Search this
Information storage and retrieval systems  Search this
Information technology  Search this
Museums -- Collection management  Search this
Computers  Search this
Interviews  Search this
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Museums and the Internet  Search this
Genre/Form:
Transcripts
Compact discs
Digital images
Electronic records
Electronic images
Sound recordings
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9637, Smithsonian Institution, History of Smithsonian Institution Computing Oral History Interviews
Identifier:
Record Unit 9637
See more items in:
History of Smithsonian Institution Computing Oral History Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-faru9637

Publications

Extent:
0.5 cu. ft. (1 document box)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Books
Serials (publications)
Date:
1966-1982
Descriptive Entry:
This accession consists of publications issued by the Office of Computer Services (OCS), with earlier issues dating from when OCS was known as the Smithsonian's Information Systems Division. The publications pertain to the Smithsonian Institution Information Retrieval System (SIIRS) and, beginning in the early 1970s, SELGEM (SELf-GEnerating Master System), which replaced SIIRS. Materials include publications.
Topic:
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Information storage and retrieval systems  Search this
Computer systems  Search this
Periodicals  Search this
Information technology  Search this
Information resources management  Search this
Genre/Form:
Books
Serials (publications)
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 84-222, Smithsonian Institution. Office of Computer Services, Publications
Identifier:
Accession 84-222
See more items in:
Publications
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-fa84-222

Research Records

Creator::
National Museum of History and Technology. Section of Mathematics  Search this
Extent:
1 cu. ft. (2 document boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Brochures
Manuscripts
Drawings
Black-and-white photographs
Date:
circa 1954-1968
Descriptive Entry:
This accession consists of weights and measurements records. Materials include articles, clippings, photographs, lists of objects, and a small amount of correspondence. See also Record Unit 332 for Section of Mathematics records.
Topic:
Mathematics -- History  Search this
Physical sciences -- History  Search this
Weights and measures  Search this
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Computers -- History  Search this
Genre/Form:
Brochures
Manuscripts
Drawings
Black-and-white photographs
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 88-152, National Museum of History and Technology. Section of Mathematics, Research Records
Identifier:
Accession 88-152
See more items in:
Research Records
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-fa88-152

Program Records

Topic:
Museum Data Bank research report
Extent:
14.5 cu. ft. (14 record storage boxes) (1 document box)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Books
Brochures
Clippings
Manuscripts
Electronic records
Architectural drawings
Black-and-white photographs
Audiotapes
Date:
1965-1990
Descriptive Entry:
These records document the development of automated data management systems for the collections of NMNH and other museums, the establishment of data handling and storage standards, and the consolidation of administrative structures to control automation policy at the Smithsonian. They include documentation of the Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) Project, consisting of contract notes, quarterly technical progress reports from October 1967 through the interim report in January 1969, and the final report, issued in July 1970. The records also contain files of correspondence, memoranda, meetings, and reports created by Mello from 1968 through 1973, and as recently as 1983. The materials document Mello's involvement with several projects, including Flora North America (FNA), a tracking system for botanical loans and exchanges among institutions; and the Systematic Biology Collections Questionnaire, many of which were completed and returned to Mello in 1968.

The records also describe the evolution of the ADP Program through administrative files dating from 1971 through 1987; budget files for 1980, 1986, and 1987; memoranda files for 1981, 1982, 1988, and 1989; correspondence files from 1977 to 1980; and chronologic files from 1980 to 1985. In addition, the records contain collections inventory documentation dating from 1972 to 1982, which includes files and reports on data management in the different departments and divisions of NMNH, and files on techniques and procedures. The records also include subject and project files dating from 1967 to 1990, which document the development of SELGEM from 1970 to 1978; planning for the Smithsonian Institution Network (SINET); ADP's involvement with the Museum Computer Network (MCN); planning materials for data processing space at the Museum Support Center (MSC), 1979 to 1986; and ADP's interaction with OCS, later the Office of Information Resource Technology (OIRM).

The records also contain files on a project done in cooperation with the Rocky Mountain Laboratory (RML) in Hamilton, Montana, during which data on a tick collection belonging to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was stored on a Smithsonian database. These materials, dating from 1976 to 1980, include program codes and microfiche. In addition, the records contain Museum Data Standards files from 1967 through 1977; the "Museum Data Bank Research Report," numbers 1 through 12, November 1974 through November 1976; the NMNH Records Manual, dated 1969; unidentified slides; and undated reel to reel recordings of speakers at various symposia.
Historical Note:
In 1963 the Director of the National Museum of Natural History formed a committee to explore the possibilities of data processing in a museum context. In July 1967 the museum received a three-year grant from the Office of Education, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and with the assistance of the Smithsonian's Information Systems Division, later renamed the Office of Computer Services (OCS), it began developing the Smithsonian Institution Information Retrieval System (SIIRS), also known as the Natural History Information Retrieval system (NHIR). By December 1969 several thousand records from representative collections in NMNH had been entered, and groundwork had been laid for the establishment of data standards.

After the grant ended in 1970 a central organization named the Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Program was formed at NMNH under the direction of James F. Mello to develop and coordinate permanent data-processing services for the museum. Soon after the Program was established it began working closely with OCS to develop a new system to replace SIIRS. Named SELGEM, for "SElf GEnerating Master," it became the basic data processing system at NMNH and at several other museums, universities, and government agencies. In January 1973 Mello was appointed Assistant Director of the museum, but he remained in charge of the ADP Program until May, when T. Gary Gautier became Acting Chief. Gautier was later named Chief, and by 1980 he was the Museum's Information Systems Manager in charge of the ADP Program. In 1985 he was named Assistant Director in charge of the ADP Office.
Topic:
Computers  Search this
Museums -- Automatic data processing  Search this
Natural History Information Retrieval system (NHIR)  Search this
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Genre/Form:
Books
Brochures
Clippings
Manuscripts
Electronic records
Architectural drawings
Black-and-white photographs
Audiotapes
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 95-169, National Museum of Natural History. Assistant Director for Automatic Data Processing, Program Records
Identifier:
Accession 95-169
See more items in:
Program Records
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-fa95-169

Records

Extent:
1 cu. ft. (1 record storage box)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Books
Manuscripts
Date:
1979-1982
Descriptive Entry:
This accession consists of abstracts for Computer in Research Symposia; reading files; abstracts for program library manuals and SELGEM Users; correspondence; and reports.
Topic:
Information technology  Search this
Information resources management  Search this
Computer systems  Search this
Information storage and retrieval systems  Search this
SELf GEnerating Master (SELGEM)  Search this
Genre/Form:
Books
Manuscripts
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 85-064, Smithsonian Institution. Office of Computer Services, Records
Identifier:
Accession 85-064
See more items in:
Records
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-fa85-064

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