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NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) History Collection

Information on the JSC History Collection at the UHCL Archives and Special Collections; created by Erin Henry and Matthew M. Peek

Johnson Space Center History Collection Overview

The NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) History Collection was first assembled when the Johnson Space Center opened as the Manned Spacecraft Center in coastal Houston, Texas, in the early 1960s. In 1962, the newly-appointed Historian at the Manned Spacecraft Center began collecting documentation which would eventually be used as source material for chronologies and histories of projects Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Most of the subsequent publications and reports were published by the U.S. Government Printing Office as Special Publications in the 4000-history series. The archival material collected included office copies (as opposed to record or official copies, required by law to be transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration) of correspondence, meeting minutes, NASA and contractor research and development reports, industry proposals, recorded interviews, etc.

Also collected were the research notes and manuscripts of contract historians who prepared histories and chronologies, as well as personal files of NASA and contractor staff involved in various programs. The resulting Johnson Space Center History Office archive became a unique collection of primary resource materials valuable to researchers. Since the collection is a compiled collection, not all of the records in its holdings are the originals used by NASA or Johnson Space Center personnel during work and mission/project preparation. These originals largely are housed by the National Archives and Records Administration. The original JSC History Archive was composed of approximately 950 linear feet of material.

In order to provide public access to this unique source of primary source materials on manned spaceflight history, NASA Johnson Space Center signed a memorandum of understanding in the summer of 1981 with the Norman Hackerman, president of Rice University in Houston, and Johnson Space Center Director Christopher Kraft Jr. This memo provided for the transfer of this accumulated historical materials on a long-term loan to the Woodson Research Center at Rice University Library. The Woodson Research Center is Rice's special collections and archives research facility. The Center and Rice University agreed to provide improved curatorial facilities for the documents, which involved their arrangement and description, inventory, and provision for public reference access to the collection. Rice University began first processing the JSC History Collection in the fall of 1982 through a Higher Education Act Title II-C grant.

The Johnson Space Center History Collection remained at Rice University, until it was determined that the collection would be more beneficial if housed at an archival repository closer to Johnson Space Center in coastal Houston. NASA Johnson Space Center and the University of Houston-Clear Lake Alfred R. Neumann Library agreed to relocate the collection to a NASA-constructed storage location in UHCL's University Archives. A Space Act Agreement for long-term renewable loan was signed by NASA, the National Archives, and UHCL in February 2001. The original collection and additional materials from Johnson Space Center History Office arrived between 2001 and 2002.

Organization and Access for the JSC History Collection

However, the JSC History Collection does contain original period copies or period reproductions of the original documents and records, such as those used in the Mission Control Center during human space flight missions. In keeping with federal records organization practices, the JSC History Collection is arranged in series, then sections and subsections by program or purpose. The collection is organized in the following series: Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), Shuttle, Space Station Freedom, Center Records, General Reference, and the JSC Oral History Project.

The JSC Oral History Project was established in 1996 to capture history from the individuals who first provided the country and the world with an avenue to space and the moon. Oral history interviews began in the summer of 1997, and since that time more than 1001 individuals have participated in the NASA Oral History projects in more than 1,299 oral history sessions. The interview transcripts from the JSC Oral History Project, conducted with former Johnson Space Center personnel and scientists, are accessible online at the JSC History Portal. The oral histories and transcripts include information from individuals who helped NASA achieve its illustrious success (note: oral history audio or video recordings are only accessible through contacting the Johnson Space Center History Office).

This collection of federal records is housed for public access in the UHCL Archives and Special Collections, through a renewable Space Act Agreement with NASA and the National Archives and Records Administration. The Johnson Space Center History Collection is open to all researchers meeting federal regulations for accessing scientific and technical information under the International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) regulations of the United States government.

[Much of this history was taken from the 1990 revised Guide to the Johnson Space Center History Archives (1952-1980) in the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, compiled by Janet Kovacevich with Nancy Crichlow].

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