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About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the
Genentech Center for the History of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was founded in 1890 as a biological field station for the Brooklyn Institute of Arts & Sciences, and was one of the first institutions in the world to specialize in genetics research. Then as today, world-renowned meetings were held on the grounds attracting top scientists, speaking on wide-ranging topics in biology. Dr. James D. Watson presented his first public lecture on the Nobel Prize winning discovery of DNA’s double helix structure at the Laboratory’s 1953 Symposium. In 1968 Watson became the Laboratory’s director, and spent the succeeding years developing it into one of the country’s leading cancer research centers. Today, CSHL’s 330 scientists are conducting breakthrough research in cancer and other genetic diseases. Not exclusively connected with a single hospital or clinic, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientists are able to select the best clinical collaborators worldwide, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Columbia University, NYU Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University and others.

In honor of its 30th anniversary, Genentech, a founder of the biotechnology industry, announced a landmark gift of $2.5 million to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to seed the establishment of the Genentech Center for the History of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s historic Carnegie Building, where genetics research began in the United States in 1904. The expanded facility will house the archival collections of luminaries from the molecular biology revolution, including Nobel laureates James D. Watson, Sydney Brenner, Barbara McClintock, and Hermann Muller. It will also contain conference and study space for visiting scholars and graduate students, who will study this history as part of their curriculum at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Watson School of Biological Sciences. Scholarly research within the Genentech Center will focus on an extraordinary period, ensuring that the history of molecular biology and biotechnology — the most exciting contemporary science — is both preserved and made accessible to all.


About the CSHL Library and Archives Collections

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives was created in 1972 to house a rich repository of rare books, manuscripts, lab notes, correspondence, photos, and reprints providing a glimpse into American scientific research and the work of the Laboratory since 1890. Its mission is to identify, maintain and preserve information and materials related to the history of genetics and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and to make this documentation available to scholars and researchers worldwide

The Archive contains invaluable materials that document the Laboratory’s contribution to the worldwide development of genetics. The materials contained in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Archive are available nowhere else in the world and chronicle the remarkable history of molecular biology and genetics. The Archive contains a number of one-of-a-kind component collections, including rare books on genetics and anthropology dating back to the 1880s, records and reprints from the Department of Genetics at Cold Spring Harbor from 1904 to 1971, records of the Eugenics Records Office at Cold Spring Harbor from 1910 to 1924, and photographs and interviews of scientists and visitors at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Of particular interest are the extensive collections of resources from Alfred D. Hershey and Barbara McClintock, scientists who performed their Nobel Prize winning research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and the complete personal collection of James D. Watson, who spent most of his career at the Laboratory, as well as several other special collections related to the history of molecular biology.

Primary materials in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives document the critical history of molecular biology and biotechnology. The Archives houses the following collections:

Comprehensive Book Collection on Molecular Biology & Genetics Support from James Watson and Matt Ridley have allowed the archives to begin acquisitions for a Complete Book Collection of genetics published in the second half of the 20th century.

Photograph Collection The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Photo Collection, from 1898 to the present, includes over 60,000 photos of scientists and staff who worked at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and scientists who attended meetings, courses and symposia. Also included are photographs of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory events and historic buildings.

Audio-Visual Collection The Archives maintains a collection of over 1,000 cassette tapes, VHS videotapes, Hi8 tapes, digital videotapes, and DVDs containing meetings and lectures held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory since 1960. Highlights of the collection include interviews and lectures of James D. Watson, Richard Roberts’s Nobel Prize lecture, symposium lectures by scientific luminaries such as Francis Crick. The Collection also contains the growing DVD library of Oral History interviews as part of the Oral History Collection. This portion of the collection includes over 100 hours of video interviews with prominent scientists in the fields of molecular biology and genetics, such as Ernst Mayr, Evelyn Witkin, Eric Lander, and Elizabeth Blackburn, on topics related to the history, scientific details, and social aspects of modern science. Short video clips have been chosen for inclusion on the Oral History website

Maps Collection The Maps Collection contains 33 maps of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory area as well as 90 blueprints of the Laboratory’s buildings from the early 20th century to the present. The significance of this collection is evidenced by the fact that Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory buildings and grounds is listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Institutional Repository The Archives plans to capture and make available as much of the research output of the institution as possible. It will preserve and digitally maintain research papers, scientific data, lecture materials, presentations, and correspondence from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientists as well as many of the digital assets generated by campus life, such as administrative documents or course notes. This material, ranging from 1905 to the present time, will be available in an integrated searchable database.

Special Collections

1. James D. Watson Collection: James D. Watson Collection: James D. Watson is one of the most famous and influential scientists of the twentieth century. He was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Francis Crick, for their 1953 discovery of the double helical structure of DNA. The unique and extensive collection comprehensively documents 60 years scientific research and science policy making. The Watson Collection includes the following:

  • Correspondence: with family members, documenting many of the personal and professional events in Watson’s career; with prominent scientists throughout the world with discussion of experiments and research ideas; and with policy makers and scientists during Watson’s tenure as the Director of the National Center for Human Genome Research;
  • Teaching files and course notes created by Watson during his tenure as a Biology Professor at Harvard University from 1958 to 1976;
  • Lab notebooks, containing graphs, notes, photographs, and results from experiments from graduate school through Watson’s time as a member of faculty at Harvard University;
  • Manuscripts and reviews of Watson’s writings – his best-selling memoir The Double Helix, the innovative and popular textbook Molecular Biology of the Gene, Watson’s account of the recombinant DNA controversy, The DNA Story, as well as his other books and articles;
  • Photographs from Watson’s childhood and adult life, including his time in Cambridge with Francis Crick and the Nobel Prize ceremony in 1962.

2. Sydney Brenner Collection: 2002 Nobel Laureate Sydney Brenner has a long history at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Since his first visit to the Laboratory in 1954, he has returned for many meetings and courses throughout his career. In 2005, Brenner agreed to donate his entire personal collection of photos, letters, laboratory notebooks, and other scientific artifacts to the Archives.

3. Charles Davenport and Milislav Demerec Collection of Reprints: Charles Davenport and Milislav Demerec, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory directors between 1898-1934 and 1941-1960, respectively, accumulated reprints and offprints from colleagues from the end of the nineteenth century through the 1950s. The Collection totals some 25,000 reprints including those of many prominent scientists in the fields of embryology, cytogenetics, and genetics. Many of the reprints are from journals that are difficult to obtain, and are not digitally available elsewhere.

4. Hermann Muller Collection: Herman Muller (1890-1967) was one the principle architects of the chromosome theory of inheritance. In 1926 he demonstrated that X-rays could be used to induce mutations in Drosophila. The Hermann Muller Collection consists of Muller’s personal correspondence. It contains approximately 300 letters spanning nearly 25 years, from 1918 to 1942.

5. Records of the Carnegie Department of Genetics: The Genetics Records Collection contains the institutional files of the Department of Genetics at Cold Spring Harbor from 1904 to 1971. This compilation includes lantern slides, photographs, ledgers, employment cards and important correspondence.

6. Eugenics Records Office (ERO) Collection: The ERO Collection includes correspondence, documents, and photographs of the ERO, which existed at Cold Spring Harbor from 1910 to 1924, and played a dubious, but significant, role in the social history of the United States

7. Reprint Collection of the Carnegie Department of Genetics: This collection contains complete sets of reprints and offprints of the major scientists who worked in the Department of Genetics including George Shull, Charles Davenport, Barbara McClintock, Albert Blakeslee, Reginald Harris, and others.

8. Davenport Family Collection: Charles Davenport came to Cold Spring Harbor as director of the Biological Laboratory in 1898 and remained associated with Cold Spring Harbor until his death in 1944. He was America’s first enthusiast for Mendelian genetics and established a world-class genetics research program at Cold Spring Harbor. Additionally, he was founder of the American eugenics movement. The Davenport Family Collection spans 1842 to 1948 and includes family letters, correspondence with scientists and artists, manuscripts and typescripts, and artwork that are only available at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In its entirety, the collection includes over 1,300 letters, 150 glass slides, 250 photographs, 50 pamphlets, and 150 clippings.

9. Hugo Fricke Collection: Hugo Fricke was appointed to establish a biophysics laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor. Fricke worked on cell membranes, trying to deduce structural features from biophysical measurements. This collection of his work, which spans 1920 to 1975, contains laboratory notebooks, correspondence, lantern and glass slides, and reprints. Fricke's papers on radiation are still cited today and access to his laboratory notebooks is a great asset for historians.

10. Barbara McClintock Collection: From 1942 until her death in 1992 Barbara McClintock conducted research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and made many contributions to genetics. Her work earned her the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. The McClintock Collection includes materials not available elsewhere: over 120 photographs, a small correspondence file of 50 letters, a set of 150 reprints written by other scientists and collected by McClintock, who made handwritten notations on them, and a slide collection consisting of 24 undated boxes of assorted sizes, which contain film of seedlings, kernels, and maize with McClintock's notations on the boxes. The collection also includes actual corn kernels and photocopies of McClintock's field notebooks.

11. Alfred D. Hershey Collection: Hershey spent much of his career at Cold Spring Harbor, during which time he conducted his Nobel Prize winning research. The collection includes the Waring blender used in his Nobel Prize-winning work on viruses, as well as correspondence, photographs, lab notes and scrapbooks. Unfortunately, most of Hershey’s papers and notes from 1951 to 1974 have disappeared, except for a copy of lab notes from 1966 to1969, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is the only institution with the remaining materials.

12. Thematic Collections: The Archives recently initiated a project to collect original materials by subject and establish the Thematic Collections to preserve laboratory notebooks, research materials, and oral history interviews for specific research topics conducted at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and other institutions. The Yeast Group Collection contains materials from the Yeast Group, which carried out seminal work on yeast genetics, including 22 laboratory notebooks, grant proposals, correspondence, auto radiographs, Polaroid photographs, and indices of yeast strains.

© 2005   CSHL Library and Archives   1 Bungtown Rd.   Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724   Library Information 516-367-6872
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