November 2019, Issue 142  |  Click to view in a browser
Silicon Valley Archives Update
A year after receiving a generous gift from the Hohbach Foundation, the Silicon Valley Archives launches two new programs, awaits the creation of a new research hub, and names the first Harold C. Hohbach Curator, Henry Lowood.
Henry LowoodIn December 2018, the Stanford Libraries announced a transformative gift from the Harold C. and Marilyn A. Hohbach Foundation. This gift provides for renovation of Green Library’s East Wing, henceforth named Hohbach Hall, and endows the Silicon Valley Archives (SVA) as a permanent program of Stanford Libraries. Additionally, this October the Harold C. Hohbach Curator was established. Henry Lowood (pictured), the current curator of History of Science & Technology Collections and Film/Media Collections, will assume the newly named curatorship.
While we wait for the opening of Hohbach Hall, expected in 2021, the SVA is launching projects that pivot its program in new directions. Led by Lowood, who established the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford, and Leslie Berlin, Silicon Valley Archives historian, these projects will bring new collections and communities to the SVA.
The SVA began as the “Stanford and the Silicon Valley Project” in the mid-1980s. The original goal was to expand upon collections in the University Archives, such as the papers of Frederick Terman, and move out from the University to document histories of innovation, “high technology industries,” entrepreneurship, and the social impact of technology in the region surrounding Stanford, known since 1971 as “Silicon Valley.” During the more than thirty years since its startup phase, the SVA has grown to become the world’s most important repository of archival collections and documentation about the history of Silicon Valley.

Terry Guyer, Medical Devices–Five Inventors. (L to R) Thomas S. Fogarty – embolectomy balloon catheters; Rodney Perkins – LaserScope; John Simpson – angioplasty balloon slidaby mounted on guidewire; Paul Yock – rapid exchange angioplasty catheter; Mir A. Imran – ablation catheter. Courtesy Stanford Libraries.

Acknowledging the past success of the SVA as a foundation for research on regional technology and entrepreneurship during the 20th century has not prevented us from understanding the need for new initiatives. We aim to document recent and contemporary developments and their impacts, and to recognize the diversity of all the communities who created the Valley. Expanding the archives along these lines creates more opportunities for engagement by students and researchers, which in turn fulfills the intent of the Hohbach donation to bridge history to the present and the future.

Two initiatives the Silicon Valley Archives launched this year are Medicine and Innovation: Oral Histories and Archive of Medical Technology, and Histories of African Americans in Silicon Valley. The Medicine and Innovation project grew out of conversations with Stanford professors and Byers Center for Biodesign co-directors Paul Yock and Thomas Krummel about the need to record, preserve and make available the largely untold story of the medical technology field. This project is an active collaboration between the Silicon Valley Archives and the Byers Center for Biodesign. It will be built around oral history interviews with significant innovators in medical technology, and include archival development. We started in April 2019 by interviewing Tom Fogarty, inventor of the balloon catheter, and since then have added oral history interviews with John Simpson (angioplasty balloon) and John Abele (Boston Scientific). After beginning the project, we learned that Harold Hohbach, as a partner in the law firm Flehr, Hohbach, et al., had served as patent attorney for several of the innovators we are interviewing in this project. This connection provides insight into an area in which Harold Hohbach was active in his professional life, adding to its already significant value for the SVA. This will be a long-term project, with three interviews completed thus far.

Many communities have contributed to Silicon Valley, and in many ways. Unfortunately, their lives and work are not always represented in the archival collections that have been amassed to date. It will be a major priority of the SVA to address areas of under-representation in the archival record. Achieving this goal will require a series of efforts focused on identifying and working with groups that until now have not been represented in terms of race, gender identity, immigration, and so forth. Our second initiative therefore is a project focused on the multiple histories of African Americans in Silicon Valley.

Kathy CottonFortunately, we did not have to begin this project from scratch. We have benefited from collaborators both inside and outside the Libraries, including Alesia Montgomery, the Stanford Libraries subject specialist for Sociology, Psychology & Qualitative Data, and Kathy Cotton (pictured), CEO of Digitalstories. Inspired by her own full career in the Valley, Kathy produced and directed “A Place at the Table: Black Pioneers of Silicon Valley” in early 2018. This documentary was an official selection of the San Francisco Black Film Festival this year. We will work with Kathy to preserve the original interviews she conducted for this Roy Clay Sr.documentary with African American engineers and executives such as Roy L. Clay (pictured), founder of the computer division of Hewlett Packard. On September 28th, the Libraries co-hosted the kick-off event for this SVA project. Prominent members of this community attended and spoke about their careers in the twin contexts of African American experience and Silicon Valley history. We look forward to a continuing collaboration with Kathy and these community and company leaders, not just to share their stories but also to help us find documentation that preserves their histories. Our goals include gathering documentation about African Americans in the Valley as well as encouraging Kathy’s continuing documentary work in this area.
As the SVA moves forward to its full-scale launch in Fall 2021, we will embark on new projects and events to expand our perspectives on the many-faceted histories of Silicon Valley. We welcome input from students, faculty and researchers about these projects and hope that you will join us!
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