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The SAC > Origins

The idea of creating a Scientific Archives Service emerged around the middle of the 1990s in the Centre for the History of Science at the UAB and the Catalan Society for the History of Science and Technology (Societat Catalana d’Història de la Ciència i de la Tècnica, SCHCT) – a member society of the Institute of Catalan Studies. The initiative was inspired by similar services that had been offered for decades in countries with advanced science and technology systems, such as the United Kingdom (National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists) and the USA (Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics), to ensure that an important part of contemporary scientific heritage does not disappear.

Following a series of conversations and interviews to present the idea, and the organisation of a day workshop entitled “Endangered heritage: the science archives” by the SCHCT (IEC, 25 February 2000), the opportunity to shape the project emerged thanks to the Institute of Catalan Studies in 2001, when a grant was offered for research projects consisting of “corpus, compilations of documents or data bases with reference to Catalan-speaking territories” that could be “assimilated in projects that are being carried out or have been carried out in other countries”. The project to create a science archives service was approved and funding awarded for three years. In November 2001 a management committee was created and its members were Antoni Borfo (then responsible for the General Archives of the UAB and member of the Section of Universities and Research of the International Archives Council), David Jou (professor of physics at the UAB, member of the IEC and director of the project), Víctor Navarro Brotons (professor of history of science at the University of Valencia), Antoni Roca-Rosell (lecturer in history of science at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and president of the SCHCT) and Xavier Roqué (lecturer in history of science at the UAB, secretary of the SCHCT and coordinator of the project).

The intention behind this initial effort was to collate information about existing science archives: classify two prestigious collections that would serve as pilot projects, and establish relationships with international institutions that are active in the field. The activities of the Service were also communicated: during the 7th Meeting of the SCHCT, held in Barcelona from 14 to 17 November 2002 a triptych designed by Enric Satué was presented in a session dedicated to scientific archives; the triptych was later distributed among members of the Institute and its member societies. As part of this initial project, in March 2003, the Service published its first website, hosted on the CEHIC server and mastered by Néstor Herran, a PhD student at the centre. In the same year the SAC took part in the first International Conference on Science Archives, which took place in Edinburgh from 9 to 11 April 2003.

In 2004 the project applied for a new grant from the IEC and was able to ensure the continuation of the project for 2005-2007 under the name of “Science Archives Service: consolidation and expansion”. One of the specific aims of the project in the second phase was to reach a broad agreement that would provide the Service with a stable institutional base; in 2003 the UAB contributed by offering a fixed Research Support post.

The final stage in consolidating the Service took place in 2007 with the signing of an agreement between the Department of Culture and Media of the Catalan government, the Institute for Catalan Studies and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, to jointly promote the Science Archives Service. This agreement, which has been renewed annually to date, has enabled the Service to recover an increasing number of scientific archives and extend its field of action so as to include the dissemination of scientific culture and support for historical research.