You are reading this webpage because you believe in the historical importance of space exploration and exploitation as we enter the seventh decade of spaceflight. Yet how many of us are helping preserve the history you are making? When your children and future generations look back at the early 21st century, what records will they find to show what you, your colleagues, and your firm or organization did? You are making history; shouldn’t you ensure that your role will be accurately and fully told?
For the first half-century of spaceflight, the history of United States space activities could be found in National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and the History Offices of NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the CIA. Government projects and spending dominated those decades and a measured part of those efforts included resources to preserving records, writing histories, recording oral histories, and other efforts to document achievements and lessons learned.
Today, collecting those records faces new challenges as the government experiments with new contracting mechanisms, novel cost-sharing measures, and other innovative means for industry partnership—and as the private sector embarks on Space 2.0 or New Space. Much of this unfolding chapter of American innovation and its broader impact is occurring beyond the purview of federal archives.
Furthering this challenge, the companies in this increasingly dynamic sector are typically focused more on changing the future than preserving their past. With the burden of preservation shifting to innovative firms, some of them start-ups, the risk that their records will vanish before they can be preserved is non-trivial. After all, firms and industry associations are focused on current and future operations; their resources and appetite for preserving historical documentation over the long term, beyond what is mandated for legal and tax reasons, are typically low. Although not opposed to preservation, such activities are typically not a core competency of most businesses, especially cash-strapped start-ups. The recent challenges of preserving electronic (“born-digital”) records has only complicated this problem.
To ensure that future generations can accurately learn about current space activities, it is imperative that private organizations act now to preserve their historic records. Corporate and NGO history will not be collected and preserved by accident but only by organized efforts. The “To Boldly Preserve” network of historians, archivists, museum curators, record managers, and others has emerged to offer help to these organizations.
What is To Boldly Preserve?
Archiving the Next Half-Century of Human Spaceflight
The number of countries, organizations, and companies
involved in space is sharply expanding. To Boldly Preserve is committed to help our fast advancing society learn how to preserve its history through oral accounts, video, images and other forms of documentation, focusing on the very near possibility of human expansion to places beyond our planet.
"To promote the robust and comprehensive collection and preservation of their history among all actors in space exploration and exploitation.”
What will you learn?
Help Preserve Space History
Funded by the National Science Foundation and hosted by the American Institute of Physics’ Center for the History of Physics; To Boldly Preserve provides information regarding the best practices, standards, models, and principles for our professional communities and for the different audiences of space actors.