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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Early Days of Computing at SI

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Nicholas Suszynski, Director of Sl's Information Systems Division, Reginald Creighton, senior systems analyst for the MNH computer project, and Dr. Donald Squires, Deputy Director of the Museum of Natural History, with a computer tape containing scientific data, 1968. Acc. No. 11-008, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

In 1967 the Smithsonian Institution launched a project to develop an information storage and retrieval system for the Museum of Natural History's (MNH) biological and geological data. Data processing machines were set up at the museum for the capture of information from record cards. These machines would produce a tape that could be read by a computer. The Honeywell 1200 computer, which can be seen in the background here, occupied space in the Arts and Industries Building, and was used to store the data. The computer gave the Smithsonian a record-keeping system capable of storing and retrieving all of the specimen data compiled by MNH.  This was an early effort to better understand and provide access to our collections. We continue to strive for deeper understanding and broader access to collections throughout our vast museum and research complex.

Marguerite Roby, Photograph Archivist
Smithsonian Institution Archives

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