Meet the RAND Archives Team

The RAND Archives team will tell you that they have the coolest jobs at RAND. In their quest to collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to materials documenting RAND’s origins, operations, development, and impact, they encounter artifacts that capture not only the history of RAND and its enduring contributions to public policy and decisionmaking, but also RAND innovations that have significantly impacted everything from health care to technology to national defense.

A Valuable Resource

The Archives team raises RAND’s profile by making the collection accessible to RAND staff and external scholars who study RAND’s history to help answer today’s research questions. Each year, Archives staff field about 75 external inquiries from scholars at universities and research organizations around the world who are writing books, journal articles, and dissertations.

Archivists Cara McCormick and Eric Newman with a RAND alum recording an oral history at an alumni event, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Archivists Cara McCormick and Eric Newman with a RAND alum recording an oral history at an alumni event

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Materials from the RAND Archives are also used to strengthen relationships with clients and partners. “When a representative from Congress visited RAND’s headquarters recently, we quickly located a letter from General Eisenhower that is one of RAND’s ‘origin’ documents, which was received with great enthusiasm,” said Cara McCormick, who oversees the day-to-day management of the Archives.

In addition to working with external researchers, most of the team’s time is spent interacting with RAND staff, alumni, and their families. “More than 130 requests for material from the Archives each year come from RAND staff,” McCormick continued.

Building the Collection Through Donations

A typical day in the Archives might include evaluating items discovered in storage, receiving items transferred as part of RAND’s records management cycle, or discussing the terms of a larger collection donation from the family of a RAND luminary.

“Almost every box we open has something interesting in it,” said Eric Newman, who processes physical materials. “While reviewing some items belonging to RAND defense researcher James Digby, we found a complete set of documentation for a war game played in 1954, including instructions, notes, charts, and 11 rolls of 70mm film with audio. That’s what Stanley Kubrick used to film 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Once a new physical collection becomes part of the Archives, the team works to stabilize fragile documents, organize the materials in a way that will make sense to future researchers, and document the contents of each box. In addition to facilitating research, items are also used in exhibits about RAND’s history, as well as anniversary celebrations and other special events.

Preserving RAND’s Digital Legacy

Digital materials can be far more fragile than paper, so RAND Archives has instituted a digital preservation program. Files on obsolete media, such as zip or floppy disks, require specialized equipment and software to access and read. Digital archivist David Tenenholtz uses a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (a.k.a. “the FRED”) to migrate these items to contemporary systems and formats.

“I’m recovering and preserving data from some 300 damaged floppy disks that belonged to Willis Ware, the former director of the computer sciences department at RAND,” Tenenholtz said. “Among my discoveries are emails from the ARPANET [Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, which laid the groundwork for the technology used to create the internet] days and groundbreaking talks Ware gave about internet privacy and artificial intelligence.”

Archives staff also work to preserve RAND’s audiovisual history, including old photographs and films, reel-to-reel audio recordings, videotapes, and transcription discs in the collection that date back to the 1940s. They have successfully recovered recordings of RAND’s founders, the sound of JOHNNIAC [an early computer built by RAND] starting up for the day, and a demo of the RAND Tablet in action. Materials that have been scanned are added to an online Archives catalog and made accessible to staff and students connected through the RAND network.

For more information about the RAND Archives collection and services, or for information on donating papers or artifacts, email the Archives team at archives@rand.org.