The Norton Zinder Collection

The CSHL Library and Archives has been awarded the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Basic Processing Grant, which will allow us to catalog and make available over a dozen collections that we currently house in the archives. This will be the first in a series of posts which will highlight the various collections included in the grant and provide insight into what it actually means to "process" the materials held in our archive.

Norton Zinder at the 1974 CSH Symposium

Initial Report on the Norton Zinder Collection

The Norton Zinder Collection is one of the first collections being worked on as part of the NHPRC Basic Processing grant. The Zinder papers were selected for inclusion in the project because he is an active, prominent scientist in the field of molecular biology, as well as a long-time member of the CSHL community as a former member of the Lab's board. As part of the Basic Processing project our goal is to provide a global audience with access to formerly "hidden" materials. We will accomplish this by applying the "basic processing" approaches suggested by Greene and Meissner in "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing" (American Archivist, Vol 68 (2005) p208-263), which at a bare minimum requires the creation of a catalog record and a brief overview the collection's contents.

Norton Zinder, a New Yorker, received his A.B. degree from Columbia University in 1947 and went on to the University of Wisconsin where he received a PhD in 1952. He returned to New York in 1952 to Rockefeller University (then known as The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research) as an assistant. At Rockefeller he was appointed an associate in 1955, associate professor in 1958 and professor in 1964, all the while conducting significant research in molecular biology. With that brief introduction, the processing of the contents of Norton Zinder’s Rockefeller University office began.

First, the numerous monographs which were included in the Zinder Collection were inventoried. The 335 books included scientific textbooks, treatises, and collections of research papers presented at various conferences. The volumes ranged in publication dates from 1913 to 2002; the authors include a pantheon of twentieth century geneticist and molecular biologist. His name was neatly handwritten or stamped on the inside cover of his undergraduate textbooks.

Next, the 84 document cases of reprints (republications of scientific articles) was inventoried. The papers provide insight into what Professor Zinder found significant for his professional edification. The reprints were kept in a series of meticulously arranged boxes, which were sorted alphabetically the author's last name. When a paper included multiple authors, Zinder underlined the name under which the reprint would be filed; this arrangement schema was maintained during processing. Over 700 authors are represented in the collection, which are dated from 1931 to 1998. Most are printed in English, although there are a smattering in German and French, as well as an interesting collection of Japanese papers on radiation.

The next report will continue this exploration of the contents of Norton Zinder’s office as was given to CSHL. The lab notebooks and thick black binders await description and a place in the spectrum of this collection.

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