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Processing the Patrick Suppes papers

June 25, 2019
Presley A Hubschmitt
Patrick Suppes

Are you interested in new University Archives collections? Have you ever wondered what goes into making a collection available for research use? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions this post is for you!

I recently completed processing the papers of Patrick Suppes, a pioneering philosopher of science. This collection is now open for research use via University Archives. Suppes spent 64 years at Stanford and was the Director of Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY). He was the Lucie Stern Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, and worked in the Statistics and Psychology departments along with the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. His collection contains journal articles and papers written by him and others in the fields of education, philosophy, and science. It also includes correspondence, research materials and notes, various slides, and a wealth of audiovisual and computer media.

Computers in a classroom

Outside of this collection, two oral history interviews with Suppes from 2007 and 2014 are accessible through the Stanford Historical Society. The importance of his contributions to the fields of philosophy and education can’t be overstated.

For this particular project, I processed 101 boxes of materials ranging from regular computer paper to old computer tapes. As a processing archivist, this was a fun collection to work with, especially the audiovisual materials and computer media. There was always a new (or I guess old) type of media I had never seen before. Large and small computer tapes, paper reels, and a tape recorder with an attached USB were some of the interesting materials I encountered on this project.

 7 inch Reels in Patrick Suppes papers

I approached processing this collection by first organizing, listing, and re-housing the paper materials. This involved moving the materials to acid-free boxes, putting any loose papers in folders, and listing the folders or items in each box. I then tackled the audiovisual materials and computer media. I moved these items into acid-free boxes and re-housed them when necessary. I used my listing of the contents of the boxes to create an OAC finding aid and made the collection available through the Stanford catalog.

My favorite part of being a processing archivist is the finished product. Creating a finding aid and making the materials more easily accessible for researchers is a point of pride for me. I hope many people will enjoy not only the Patrick Suppes papers, but also other valuable Stanford collections from professors, campus organizations, and administrators who were pioneers in their respective fields.