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Archives Spotlight: The Archives of American Mathematics at the Center for American History

By Kristy Sorensen

The following article, featured as part of the Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight, was published in the May/June 2004 issue of MAA FOCUS. The full issue is available here (pdf).

The Archives of American Mathematics (AAM), a unit of the University of Texas at Austin's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, has been an important resource for mathematicians, historians, and sociologists for nearly 30 years. Thanks to the generous financial support recently provided by the Legacy of R.L. Moore Project, through the Mathematical Association of America this valuable collection will be made more accessible for teaching and research. In February 2003, the Center for American History used grant funds to hire Kristy Sorensen, a full-time archivist, and Traci Drummond, a part-time assistant, to manage the growing collection.

R.H. Bing

R.H. Bing, ca. 1960s. (Click to enlarge.)
Source: The R.H. Bing Papers at the Archives of American Mathematics.

Together they have taken major steps to enhance the value of AAM collections to researchers, including the placement of over 50 collection inventories on the Internet, where they can be accessed by researchers worldwide. In February 2004, the AAM was awarded an additional two years of funding from the Legacy of R.L. Moore Project. In March, Amelia Abreu replaced Traci Drummond as the archival assistant. She and Kristy Sorensen look forward to continued work with the mathematics collections in the coming years.

George Bruce Halsted

George Bruce Halsted, date unknown. (Click to enlarge.)
Source: The R.L. Moore Papers at the Archives of American Mathematics.

R.L. Moore

R.L. Moore, January, 1969. Photo taken by Homer G. Ellis. (Click to enlarge.)
Source: The R.L. Moore Papers at the Archives of American Mathematics.

Colleagues of R.L. Moore, a prominent mathematician and longtime professor at the University of Texas (1920-69), established the AAM in 1975 with the donation of his papers. This core collection attracted other donors and led to the addition of the papers of many of Moore's students and colleagues, including R.L. Wilder, R.H. Bing, and G.B. Halsted.

In 1978, the AAM became the official repository for the records of the Mathematical Association of America, expanding the collection to include the administrative records of this important professional organization. Adding to the breadth of collections in the AAM are the records of the School Mathematics Study Group, creator of the influential New Math primary and secondary curriculum of the 1960s. Other prominent collections include the papers of Max Dehn, Emil Grosswald, and William T. Reid. Major strengths of the archives are in topology, mathematics education, analysis, number theory, logic, and the mathematical foundations of physics. The AAM currently consists of 70 collections measuring more than one thousand linear feet.

Mathematicians at 1930 AMS/MAA meeting

Joint AMS/MAA Mathematics Meeting, Cleveland, Ohio, December, 1930. From left to right: Wilfrid Wilson, J.W. Alexander, W.L. Ayres, G.T. Whyburn, R.L. Wilder, P.M. Swingle, C.N. Reynolds, W.W. Flexner, R.L. Moore, T.C. Benton, K. Menger, S. Lefschetz.
Source: The R.L. Moore Papers at the Archives of American Mathematics.

The Center for American History is a special collections library, archive, and museum that facilitates research and sponsors programs on the history of the United States. The center supports research and education by acquiring, preserving, and making available research collections and by sponsoring exhibitions, conferences, symposia, oral history projects, publications, and grant-funded initiatives.

C. Zarankiewicz, W.L. Ayres, and B. Knaster

C. Zarankiewicz, W.L. Ayres, and B. Knaster (with unidentified dog), undated.
Source: The R.L. Moore Papers at the Archives of American Mathematics.

Kristy Sorensen served as the archivist at the Archives of American Mathematics until November 2006.

The Archives of American Mathematics (AAM) is a unit of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. Individuals interested in conducting research or donating materials or who have general questions about the AAM should contact Carol Mead, Archivist: carolmead@austin.utexas.edu, (512) 495-4539.

Revised on July 12, 2010.

 

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