Re: [Nethistory] Collecting the history of networking, a possible methodology

Andrew Russell <> Mon, 27 May 2013 16:04 UTC

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From: Andrew Russell <>
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Date: Mon, 27 May 2013 12:04:53 -0400
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Subject: Re: [Nethistory] Collecting the history of networking, a possible methodology
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Hello, I'm an academic historian of technology/computing/networking, and hence a user of the materials that this group seeks to preserve and make available to scholars.  I think this is a very important effort, and I'm delighted to see it gaining momentum - especially since I have had a hard time finding some of the IETF's own materials (such as the poised mailing list archives).  

Since this group aspires to act as a matchmaker, I thought I would share my thoughts about matches that you might make. I missed the Orlando BoF, so please forgive me if I'm telling you things you already know.

1. In addition to the Computer History Museum and Charles Babbage Institute (which have already been mentioned), American scholars active in this field regularly work with collections at the Hagley Museum and Library <>; the Smithsonian Lemelson Center <>; and the MIT Institute Archives <>.  There are many others, but these are the first to come to mind.  You may want to reach out to staff at each of those institutions, or at least add them to any list/wiki you assemble. It's also worth noting that CBI, Hagley, and Lemelson offer fellowships for scholars who want to travel to and use their collections, which is a major factor for graduate students and academics who aren't exactly flush with cash!  Colleagues who are not based in the US may be able to provide more information about non-American institutions with similar missions.

2. The Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) has at least two SIGs that you may wish to engage: SIGCIS (, Special Interest Group for Computers, Information, & Society); and TEMSIG (, Technology and Museums Special Interest Group). SHOT <> is a large international organization, and SIGCIS and TEMSIG together have several hundreds of members (scholars, museum professionals, etc.) from around the world, primarily in the US, Asia, and Europe.  If I were to make only one suggestion to this group, I would say that you should reach out to these professionals via the mailing lists of SIGCIS and TEMSIG.

3. As Marc Weber alluded, the professional societies also maintain an interest in history, including the IEEE History Committee <>, the IEEE Computer Society History Committee <>, and the ACM History Committee <>.  Naturally, these groups are interested primarily in their own histories, but the affiliations and interests of the various members of these committees are broader and more diverse. Many leaders of these committees are active in SHOT and are subscribed to the SIGCIS and/or TEMSIG lists.  

4. The IEEE Global History Network <> might also be a compelling model or destination for your efforts. Since it is not a traditional paper and artifact-based archive, it might be better suited for hosting scanned or "born digital" materials.

5. Finally, the historian of computing James Cortada recently published "History Hunting: A Guide for Fellow Adventurers" (publisher page is  Dave Walden published a review of this book - with some of his own reflections on history-collecting and writing - in the most recent issue of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.  It's a very nice review of a book that is directly on point for this effort in the IETF.  IEEE members can get the review from  If you can't get access, please contact me or Dave Walden if you'd like to read it; or, as Dave urged in his review, buy _History Hunting_ and read it!

I'm active in several of the groups I mentioned above, and I would be happy to make introductions or provide more information if you think it's helpful.

Please keep up the good work - we (historians) need you!!!


Andy Russell
College of Arts & Letters
Stevens Institute of Technology

On May 25, 2013, at 10:00 PM, George Michaelson <> wrote:

> I said this at the Orlando meeting but I'd like to repeat it here:
> There is an entire discipline dedicated to collecting, curating, archiving.
> There is an entire discipline dedicated to collecting oral history.
> Why does the IETF always have to act as if it, and only it, is capable of defining how to do _anything_ ? 
> Instead of beating our heads against the wall 'designing' how to do net history, why don't we do outreach to the people who have formalized processes and methods, to collect, collate and archive this kind of thing?
> Sometimes, we aren't actually the right people to do things. 
> Lets get in touch with the Sussex University social history people, the history of science schools in the US, Asia, and lets get them assigning their brilliant minds to this problem. They have students, dying for theses topics, students who need honors projects, busting to be assigned something juicy to work on.
> Lets get them working on us.
> -George
> On Sun, May 26, 2013 at 11:40 AM, Dave Crocker <> wrote:
> On 5/25/2013 4:59 AM, Jack Haverty wrote:
> For example, I recently did some garage archaeology and unearthed my
> notebooks from the late 70s and early 80s with all my notes from various
> meetings of TCP, IP, ICCB/IAB, and other meetings of the early working
> groups.  If I scan them before the ink blurs beyond readability, where
> should I FTP the files...?
> When considering an effort to specify a mechanism, I'm a fan of use cases, to guide everyone's thinking.  Use cases are typically simple, concrete, direct and realistic.
> The above seems to me to be one of the more iconic examples for the current effort.  I'd think that if the effort develops a useful, scalable answer, it will have significantly improved the world's long-term archiving of Internet historical data.
> What other questions should be on the list?
> d/
> -- 
> Dave Crocker
> Brandenburg InternetWorking
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