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Carnegie Institution of Washington at Cold Spring Harbor Administrative Records

 Collection
Identifier: CIWA

The Carnegie Institution of Washington at Cold Spring Harbor Administrative Records collection contains the administrative files and records of the directors and staff of the Departments of Genetics, its predecessors and successors. Dates of material in this collection extend outside the 1904-1971 timeframe as a result of overlapping relationships of the Department’s directors with related and successor institutions.

These records document the history and development of the Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Genetics through directors’ correspondence files, financial records, property leases, blueprints, and maps, employee records, and photographs.

The records include those created by variant named entities and successors Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory of Quantitative Biology, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Also included in this collection are certain materials from Related Collections (Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences’ Biological Laboratory; and the Long Island Biological Association’s Biological Laboratory) resulting from many years of shared directors, staff, officers, and facilities. The finding aids for the Related Collections contain cross-references and links to assist researchers.

A detailed list of the box contents can be found at http://library.cshl.edu/special-collections/carnegie-institution-of-washington/collection-inventory-ciw.

Dates

  • 1898-1977

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply, see Archivist for details. Access is given only by appointment, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Use Restriction

Archival materials must remain in the archival reading area. Item duplication is to be done by archivists. Fees are applied to copies made. Digital photography is permitted by users. Due to the very fragile nature of some materials in this collection, some are available through photocopies; others must be used under the supervision of an archivist.

Extent

34 linear feet (78 boxes)

Overview

This collection contains the administrative records of the directors of the Carnegie Institution of Washington Station for Experimental Evolution (1904-1921) and its successor, the Department of Genetics (1921-1962), and its final institution, The Genetics Research Unit (1962-1974), which was opened in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, in 1904.

These records document the history of a 20th scientific research center and the development of a modern organizational structure through directors’ correspondence files, financial records, property leases, blueprints, and maps, employee records, research records, and photographs. The records include those created by the Department’s predecessors, successors, and related institutions. The Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Genetics shared directors, staff, officers, and facilities with those related institutions for many years, creating a complex intermingling of history and records. As a result dates of material in this collection extend outside the years the Department officially existed, 1904-1971.

Historical Note

In 1903 the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW), the privately-funded scientific research organization founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1902, approved a plan to establish a biological experiment station to study evolution. The Station for Experimental Evolution (SEE) formally opened on June 11, 1904 in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, to study heredity and evolution through breeding experiments with plants and animals. Under the initial directorship of Charles Benedict Davenport (1866-1944), the unit would flourish and operate for 67 years, undergo name changes as it fine-tuned its research focus, combine with and then close down a eugenics research operation, and eventually merge with neighboring Long Island Biological Association’s Biological Laboratory (LIBA Bio Lab.) This union eventually became Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a research and educational institution which played a pivotal role during the 20th century in the emergence of molecular genetics, the scientific foundation of the revolution in biology and biotechnology.

In 1902, and again in 1903, Charles Benedict Davenport (1866-1944), approached CIW with a proposal to establish a biological station at Cold Spring Harbor. The trustees of CIW approved his plan, and he became the first director (1904-1934) of the Department of Genetics (originally named the Station for Experimental Evolution (SEE)). During this same time period Davenport was also the director of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences’ Biological Laboratory (BIAS Bio Lab), a summer field station for high school and college science teachers that he had led since 1898. The Department of Genetics and the BIAS Bio Lab were neighbors, operating on adjacent acres of land donated to each of them by The Wawapex Society, a philanthropic foundation established by the John D. Jones family of Long Island, New York. In 1910, while Davenport was directing both those operations, Mrs. E. H. Harriman established the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor for him to head as well. In 1918 the ERO was donated to CIW, and became part of the Department of Genetics in 1921. Davenport concurrently headed BIAS Bio Lab, CIW’s Department of Experimental Evolution (changed from SEE in 1918), and the ERO until 1924. That year ownership and management of BIAS Bio Lab was transferred to a newly formed Long Island Biological Association (LIBA). See Related Collections for histories of BIAS Bio Lab, LIBA Bio Lab, and ERO.

The occurrence of overlapping directorships was to be repeated again among the Department of Genetics, the BIAS Bio Lab, the LIBA Bio Lab, and the ERO during most of the 67-year span the Department of Genetics was in existence.

There were five directors of the Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Genetics:

  1. Charles Benedict Davenport (1866-1944), director from 1904-1934
  2. Albert Francis Blakeslee (1874-1954), director from 1934-1941
  3. Milislav Demerec (1895-1966), director from 1941-1960
  4. Berwind Peterson Kaufmann (1897-1975), director from 1960-1962
  5. Alfred Day Hershey (1908-1997), director from 1962-1971
In 1962 CIW and LIBA’s Bio Lab agreed to merge to form Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory of Quantitative Biology. By 1970 the name was shortened to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. A reduced number of CIW scientific investigators, including Nobel Laureates Alfred D. Hershey and Barbara McClintock, would remain with a skeletal staff and operate as the Genetics Research Unit until it closed in 1971.

Arrangement Note

The records are arranged in five series: Series 1: Administrative Correspondence (alphabetical); Series 2: Employee Cards (alphabetical); Series 3: Ledgers (size); Series 4: Research Photographs (alphabetical); Series 5: Photographs (chronological).

Original order was maintained during processing of Series 1 and Series 2. Like material was grouped and arranged by processing archivists to form Series 3, 4, and 5. Folder level date ranges are generally reflective of the material within.

An occasional exception to original order arrangement occurred in Series 1: Administrative Correspondence. New folders were created in certain instances when usage of material by modern researchers discovered significant people, institutions, or subjects that warranted separate foldering (example: the original folder “Buildings (incl. designs and construction)” was refoldered and renamed “Anderson and Beckwith, Architects”).

Provenance

The collection represents material generated, accumulated, and maintained by the Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Genetics since its opening in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, in 1904. Material in the collection was generated by the Department of Genetics and predecessor and successor departments with variant names. These records have been stored on site since their creation, originally in administrative offices and subsequently in the attic of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library Building (until 2008 when they were temporarily removed to closed storage during building renovation, and subsequently returned to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives in 2010).

Documents within the collection identify these records as those belonging to Department of Genetics’ directors Davenport, Blakeslee, Demerec, and Hershey. During most of its 67-year existence the Department shared directors, certain staff and buildings, with three related peer institutions: 1) Eugenics Record Office (established as a separate entity in 1910, but whose building, files and records were donated to Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1918); 2) The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences - The Biological Laboratory; and 3) Long Island Biological Association Biological Laboratory. This shared leadership created an intermingling of these institutions’ administrative files. Where folders were clearly identifiable as belonging to another institution as determined by date, person, or subject, the processing archivists removed the folders for placement in the relevant Related Collections. Where folders contained material which overlapped multiple collections, the folder was kept in this collection and reference notes added. It is recommended that this collection be researched in conjunction with Related Collections.

Related Materials

The following collections at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives house materials related to Carnegie Institution of Washington at Cold Spring Harbor Administrative Records: Amos G. Avery Photographic Collection, Carnegie Institution of Washington Eugenics Record Office, The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences – The Biological Laboratory, Charles B. Davenport Collection, Hugo Fricke Collection, Reginald G. Harris Collection, Alfred D. Hershey Collection, Barbara McClintock Collection, Long Island Biological Association Collection, and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Collection. These can be accessed through the CSHL Archives Digital Collections Database (http://archives.cshl.edu/).

Scholars should also refer to other institutions including the American Philosophical Society for several collections related to the history of the Carnegie Institution of Washington at CHL including; Albert F. Blakeslee Papers, Charles B. Davenport Papers, Milislav Demerec Papers, Papers of the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor. The Carnegie Institution of Washington maintains the Administration Records Collection of the departments of the institution.

Acknowledgement

This project “Arrangement and Description of the Hidden Collections of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Legacy Institutions, 1890-1974” was made possible in part by a grant from the Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives, a program of the State Education Department.
Title
Carnegie Institution of Washington at Cold Spring Harbor Administrative Records
Status
completed
Author
Finding Aid prepared by Linda Swanson and Clare Clark
Date
2012
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Contact:
Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA
516-367-6872