Stanford Acquires Ampex History Collections


Stanford Acquires Ampex History Collections

The Stanford University Libraries have acquired historical and archival collections of Ampex Corporation, one of Silicon Valley-s pioneering technology companies and for more than five decades an industrial leader in magnetic recording and data storage. These historical collections include the artifact collection of the former Ampex Museum of Magnetic Recording, an extensive photographic archive of more than 200,000 images, documentation and product files, and Ampex publications.  These materials will provide scholars with a major resource in the history of audio and video recording technology and the early development of Silicon Valley.

According to Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian, -This is a brilliant addition to our holdings supporting the study of the history of technology in the second half of the 20th century. It also provides a wonderful counterpoint to our Archives of Recorded Sound. Between them, we have a wealth of material covering both recorded content and technology.- Keller, a former music librarian, added that Ampex has been the pivotal influence in recording technology since its creation in 1944.

The collections were given to Stanford by Ampex Data Systems Corporation, of Redwood City.  Acquisitions costs, including shipping, storage and preliminary processing, have been underwritten by a gift from Dolby Laboratories, Inc., of San Francisco. (Recording innovator Ray Dolby began his career in recording technology at Ampex.)

The Ampex collections, currently in storage, will require several years of curatorial effort to organize, stabilize, describe and re-house before the collection is fully accessible for research.  Henry Lowood, Curator for History of Science & Technology Collections and head of the Stanford and the Silicon Valley Archives commented, -We are still digesting the collection, which we received in several parts over the summer, and right now our efforts are going to assessing what we have.  Before long we will provide a website for the collection, which will be a good place to look for more information about access to it.- [As of 2002-01-24, the website is not yet available.] Until the collection has been  processed, the Libraries will be unable to provide public access to the collection or fulfill information requests about it. [In, 2002 January, NPR  aired a story about the collection by Peter Jon Shuler (KQED). Same story in 48 KBPS mp3 file.]

The Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company was founded in 1944 by Alexander M. Poniatoff in San Carlos, Calif. Four years later, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) used an Ampex Model 200 audio recorder for the -The Bing Crosby Show,- the first tape-delayed radio broadcast in the United States.  In March, 1956, Ampex demonstrated the first videotape recorder, the VRX-1000, at a meeting of the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters in Chicago.  Over the next decades, Ampex introduced many innovations in audio, video, and data recording and storage.  The museum collection includes recording devices and media, dating back to the 1940s, and spans the critical years of development of video recording.

The photographic archives and audio recordings date back to the 1940s and document not only the development of technology and products, but also trace close links between Ampex and the emerging television networks, electronic media and the entertainment industry.  Stanford hopes eventually to display some of the key artifacts in the Libraries- exhibit spaces, though specific plans are not firm yet.

The Stanford and Silicon Valley Archives <> seek to identify, preserve, and make available the documentary record of science, technology, and related business and cultural activities in Silicon Valley. It has been a dynamic and strong component of the Stanford Libraries' collecting program since 1983 and has preserved the papers of Douglas Engelbart, William Shockley, Frederick Terman, Donald Knuth, George Forsythe, John McCarthy, Edward Feigenbaum, Charles A. Rosen, and many others active or influential in the development of computers and computing or other aspects of the Silicon Valley economy. The archives also have preserved the Stephen Cabrinety Collection in the History of Microcomputing and the historical collections of Apple Computer, as well as historical records of Fairchild Semiconductor, Interval Research Corporation and the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, to name only a few examples. Oral histories are also an important component of the Stanford and Silicon Valley Archives Project, such as -Silicon Genesis: Interviews with Semiconductor Pioneers.-

Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources supports the teaching, learning and research mandates of the university through delivery of bibliographic and other information resources and services to faculty, student and staff.  It is tackling the challenges of the digital age, especially pertaining to scholarly communication and research libraries, while continuing the development, preservation and conservation of its extensive print, media, manuscript and technological artifact collections.

CONTACT:  Andrew Herkovic, University Libraries (650) 224-3711;  [email protected]

COMMENT:  Henry Lowood, Curator for History of Science and Technology Collections (650) 723-4602;  [email protected]

Relevant Web URLs:

2002-01-24: html format, corrections per H Lowood, add Shuler story about collection. J Mcknight

AES - Audio Engineering Society