A Little Bit of Everything — the Louis B. Slichter Papers

Some collections have a little bit of everything – or anyway, they seem like they do.

In November 2013, I was assigned to arrange and describe the Louis B. Slichter Papers (Collection 1880). Slichter was the first director of UCLA’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, and one of the preeminent geophysicists of the 20th century. Slichter Hall, on south campus, is named for him. Early on as I was familiarizing myself with Slichter’s files, I ran across a folder titled “Loch Ness Monster.” Inside the folder were a few clippings, and a collection of newsletters from an organization called the Loch Ness Investigation, with a circular or two addressed to “Dear Member.” This, I thought to myself, is going to be an interesting collection.

I should say up front that most of the material is pretty much what you would expect from the papers of a scientist: numbers, Greek letters, scientific symbols. There are a lot of technical terms, a lot of equations, prose written by experts to be read by other experts. But the Louis B. Slichter Papers aren’t just about science; they’re about Louis B. Slichter, the people he knew, and his times.

Slichter’s professional career as a geophysicist began during the First World War. He had studied at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and was tutored in math by Max Mason, a protégé of Slichter’s own father, mathematician Charles S. Slichter. When the United States entered the war, Mason was employed by the Navy to devise an apparatus to detect German submarines with an acoustic array that Mason designed. Slichter, by now an Ensign in the U.S. Navy was a member of Mason’s team, and spent much of his time on shipboard, testing the array at sea on destroyers patrolling between New London, Connecticut and Plymouth, England.

Surrendered German U-Boats, 1918

When the war ended in 1918, Slichter returned to the University of Wisconsin, where he studied physics under Mason, receiving his Ph.D. in 1922. His association with Mason was profitable as well as academically rewarding. In the 1920s, Mason, Slichter and some other veterans of the anti-submarine program formed a consulting firm to employ the techniques they had used to detect submarines to prospect for ores.

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Call for applications: 2012 Thayer Short-Term Research Fellowships

The UCLA Library’s James and Sylvia Thayer Short-Term Research Fellowships support the use of special collections materials by visiting scholars and UCLA graduate students. Collections that are administered by the UCLA Library Special Collections and available for Thayer fellowship-supported research include materials in the humanities and social sciences; medicine; life and physical sciences; visual and performing arts; and UCLA history.

Research residencies may last up to three months between February 1 and December 14, 2012. Recipients receive stipends ranging from $500 to $2500. Those receiving fellowships are expected to provide a brief report on the results of their research that can be mounted on the UCLA Library Web site. Fellows may have the opportunity to speak about their research at an informal brown-bag session with local scholars during their visit.

Full details are available at:

Completed applications are due November 18, 2011.

In the News: Hot Enough for You?

The Story of Air Conditioning, a fact-filled 16-page pamphlet distributed by the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Machinery Association sometime between 1940 and 1953, is available for reading at History & Special Collections for the Sciences on the 4th floor of the Biomedical Library. It also is online at: The Story of Air Conditioning

This recent acquisition—the only copy now held by a library, and found for us by West Sand Lake, New York-based ephemera dealer aGatherin’—uses the characters Tempy (temperature), Drippy (humidity), Stirry (air circulation), and Dusty (cleanliness) to answer the question, “Did you ever wonder why you are so much more comfortable in air conditioned surroundings?” [Italics are theirs.]  The pamphlet is wittily illustrated by John Groth, who was the art editor of Esquire in the 1930s and combat correspondent and artist for the Chicago Sun during World War II.

By Russell A. Johnson, History and Special Collections for the Sciences

UCLA Library Curators’ Conversations

After the Earthquake
Popular Memory as History in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Report on a Student Oral History Project

Wednesday, November 2
Noon-1 p.m.
Charles E. Young Research Library
Presentation Room

In January 2010 a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. More than five hundred thousand people were killed or injured, and the island nation’s infrastructure was devastated. In September 2011 a UC contingent led by UCLA history professor Robin Derby traveled to Port-au-Prince, funded by a seed grant from the Ford Foundation-Latin American Studies Association. There they joined faculty members of the State University of Haiti to conduct an intensive training course in oral history methodology for a group of Haitian students.

Teresa Barnett, head of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research and a member of the UC contingent, will report on the experience. In particular, she will focus on the interviews that resulted and some of the oral history and archival issues raised by such collaborations.

Please join us for this occasional series exploring Library collections and projects with the staff who acquire and make them available. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

You are welcome to bring your lunch; coffee and cookies will be served.

Seating is limited. RSVP to UCLA Library Development at <rsvp@library.ucla.edu>.

Reducing the backlog, three boxes at a time

In the summer of 2011, graduate students in the Center for Primary Research and Training embarked on a project to reduce the department’s backlog of partially processed collections and make them available to the public for research.

Chris Marino (Information Studies), Yasmin Damshenas (Moving Image Archive Studies), Jesse Erickson (Information Studies) and Heather Lowe (Information Studies) worked from a list to choose collections that appealed to their interests. The only “rule” of the assignment was that the collection should be three boxes or smaller. (We did break that rule on occasion and do collections of four boxes!)

In a three month period, these four students arranged, described and rehoused 55 collections, on subjects such as the Spanish Civil War, rare book collecting, mountaineering, education in Malawi, Persian calligraphy and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. Heather said, “My favorite part of processing small collections was how much I learned from each one. Whether it was the Building and Loan League Records, the Charles Wilkin Waddell Papers, or the Andy Zermeno Papers, I got to investigate things such as the rise of savings and loans, the birth of the education department at UCLA, and the agricultural workers’ movement in California. These are all things I might not have sought out to learn on my own but were a way I really benefited from the project.” Yasmin added, “The small size of the collections allowed for exposure to an unbelievable variety of topics and disciplines within a short period.  Within one week alone I was able to work with WWI photographs, 17th century theatrical set design, journalism on California social issues, expressionist lithographs, and Broadway plays. It made for a rewarding experience.”

Please check back in the coming weeks for stories from the students about their favorite collections and intriguing finds.

By Megan Hahn Fraser, Processing Projects Librarian

In the News: Space Shuttle Tile at the Biomedical Library

On display in the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library lobby is one of 7,000 unused Space Shuttle tiles donated by NASA to schools and universities “that want to share technology and a piece of space history with their students,” according to the NASA Exploring Schools’ Teacher’s Corner.

Estimated to cost about $1,000 apiece, the lightweight silica-based “High-Temperature Reusable Surface Insulation” tiles were given to eligible institutions for only the cost of shipping and handling ($23.50) and the adventure of navigating a NASA Space Program – Historic Artifacts Prescreening on the U.S. General Services Administration’s GSAXcess website.

According to William Gerstenmaier, NASA Administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate, “Each space shuttle carried over 24,000 separate Thermal Protection Systems tiles, and each one was a different size and shape. This is an authentic tile and is presented to honor 30 years of Space Shuttle flights and the great achievements made by the men and women of NASA in science, aeronautics, and space exploration.”

The NASA shuttle tile is sealed in a protective plastic wrapping.  It is available for short-term loan to UCLA classes and laboratories. Faculty should contact History & Special Collections for the Sciences, 310.825.6940.

Also on display is the 18th-century Greek and Latin edition of Hippocrates’ Aphorisms which accompanied UCLA alumna (Chemistry and Medicine) Dr. Anna Fisher on STS-51A, the 14th out of 135 missions of the Space Shuttle program and the second flight of Discovery, in November 1984.

By Russell A. Johnson, History & Special Collections for the Sciences

Credit: Image from Luis María Benítez, uploaded by Ulfbastel, placed in the public domain at: download from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Space_Shuttle_%28HRSI_tile%29.png

Happy 85th Birthday to Neutra Architecture

On Sunday April 10 I ventured out to Silverlake, for the Sunday portion of the 85th anniversary party for Neutra architecture 1926-2011, organized by Dion Neutra.  It was a self-guided tour of ten houses built by the Neutra practice, seven by Richard and three by Dion.  An added bonus at the end was a tour of the Lovell House, the house that made Neutra famous in the US in 1929.  The tour started in the VDL II House.  The first VDL House was built by Richard Neutra as his home, but burned to the ground in 1963.  The house was rebuilt by Richard and Dion as VDL II:

The tour continued with a series of apartments and houses all within a stone’s throw or two of Dion’s house on Neutra Place.

These included the Flavin House, the Inadomi House, the O’Hara House, and Treetops, an apartment building designed by Dion Neutra.  The final stop was at the Lovell House.  It is a spectacular house, especially when you remember it was built in 1929.  The house was built for the physician and naturopath Philip Lovell.  It was a turning point in Neutra’s career.  The current owner of the house, now well in to her 80s, and her son were there to greet visitors and talk about the house.  The house featured in the film LA Confidential.

I was joined on the expedition by Special Collections Cataloger Jane Carpenter who took these excellent pictures.

By Simon Elliott, Public Services

2011 Bonnie Cashin Lecture

UCLA Library Special Collections welcomed a standing room only crowd on March 10 for the 2011 Bonnie Cashin Lecture by Prof. Stephen Cooper, author of Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante.

The talk, The Road to John Fante’s Los Angeles: A Biographer Reflects, told the story of the twenty-four year old Cooper’s discovery of the work of John Fante (1909-1983), which happened when he stumbled on a copy of Ask the Dust in a second-hand bookshop. Cooper’s ensuing years of research on the once-forgotten author gained him the trust of Fante’s widow Joyce, who ultimately gave Cooper access to her husband’s papers, along with her blessing to tell the story of his life and work.

Cooper’s work has served to create a remarkable afterlife for Fante as a central figure in the literary identity of Los Angeles, and was instrumental in leading to the 2009 acquisition of Fante’s papers by UCLA Library Special Collections, where they are now preserved and available for research.

The lecture was held in conjunction with the opening of an exhibit of highlights from the Fante archive. John Fante: A Life in the Works, curated by Daniel Gardner, will be on view through June 2011 in the Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections.

Fashion designer Bonnie Cashin was a pioneer of American sportswear and one of the most innovative American designers of her time. Her legacy to the UCLA Library includes her archive, the Bonnie Cashin Collection of Fashion, Theater, and Film Costume Design, and the endowed Bonnie Cashin Lecture Series, bringing gifted individuals from varied creative pursuits to UCLA Library Special Collections to celebrate the creative process and to preserve the legacy of Cashin’s remarkable life and work.

Santa Claus, MD

On display in the Biomedical Library lobby, this week only:  a charming, medically-oriented handwritten letter from Santa Claus to Anna, a six year-old girl in Buffalo, New York, dated December 24, 1843:

“To night is Christmas eve, & I have all the little children in the world to visit – I give the best things to the best children.  You have been very good to take medicine & have the leeches on.  I hope you will be better soon.  Your dear friend, Santa Claus”.

Genealogical research by an antiquarian bookseller suggests Anna lived at least twenty more years.

The mini-exhibit is part of an ongoing series, New Old Things, highlighting selected recent acquisitions in History and Special Collections for the Sciences.

For more information about the history of bloodletting, see our online exhibit

by Russell Johnson
History and Special Collections for the Sciences


I am very pleased to welcome readers to the UCLA Library Special Collections Blog.  UCLA Library holds a vibrant and expansive array of rare and unique holdings that range from cuneiform tablets dating from circa 3000 B.C.E. to born digital records of the 21st century.  Our holdings include manuscripts, archives, rare books, photographs, artists’ books, ephemera, architectural drawings, objects, and other materials that support research in a wide variety of fields, geographic areas, and time periods.  We welcome thousands of scholars, graduate students, undergraduates, and other researchers to our reading rooms each year and host a robust series of exhibitions and programs that draw from our collections.

Library Special Collections consists of five recently integrated units, brought together into one administrative department in 2010: the Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections, the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History of Science and Medicine Special Collections; the Performing Arts Special Collections; the University Archives; and the Center for Oral History Research.

We intend for this blog to serve as an informal clearinghouse for information about our collections, services, and programs.  We especially anticipate using it to share news of recent acquisitions, to promote newly processed and cataloged materials, and to highlight materials from our collections.

Tom Hyry, Director, UCLA Library Special Collections