The BSDB Archive covers 70 years of our society’s history, providing deep insights into its early years, its long trail of scientific conferences, workshops and committee meetings; it includes an almost complete collection of the many newsletters that have been published since issue 1 came out in 1979. A year ago, many of the archive’s documents were made digitally available (see box below) and described in a dedicated blog post by Andreas Prokop (LINK). The sheer number of >30,000 downloads from this digital archive within less than a year (LINK), clearly illustrates the wider interest in these historical documents, which hopefully help also some of our younger members to understand how Developmental Biology as a discipline became established in the UK.
The BSDB will likely not go further with the archive’s digitisation, but has taken an important alternative step to make its contents available to those taking a serious interest. Thus, Sarah Wilmot at the Historical Collections of the John Innes Centre (collections.jic.ac.uk) has kindly agreed to host and curate the BSDB archive, and we are most grateful for her outstanding professional support that now makes the collection fully accessible for further investigation. As Carsten Timmermann wrote from his perspective as science historian: “Your archive is a little treasure trove and will enable us to understand the history of Developmental Biology in this country much better. I wish other societies would follow your example. If we had a whole set of similar archives at our disposal, this would help us to study the way the life sciences overall have developed, comparing and contrasting sub-disciplines and understanding trends. For example, one could look at conference programmes in different fields within the life sciences and study how molecular methods have transformed biology.” In this context it is of particular interest, that the BSDB Archive will be accessible side-by-side with the one of the Genetics Society, thus providing an even greater opportunity to perform studies into the UK’s science history.
Hopefully, the “open source” nature of the BSDB Archive , be it in its digital form or as hard copy collection, will attract wider interest and inspire others to join in and help develop its full potential – be it biologists browsing around, or (hobby) historians making systematic scientific use of it. But if you do so, please be so kind to share any new insights, anecdotes that come to mind or any knowledge that complements the information currently available. Also, if you hold additional documents that might add to the collection, we have now means to archive it in appropriate ways. Just send a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org we will take appropriate action!