The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology.
Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.
In Session One, Matthew H. Schneps, co-director of the Wolbach Image Processing Laboratory at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, interviewed Geller about her personal and family history and the early influences on her life and work as a student and scientist. Schneps also touched on Geller's research on the structure of the universe. The interview took place on February 5, 1989, at Margaret Geller's home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Schneps's intention was to examine the personal, social, political and psychological forces that determined the direction of Geller's scientific research. In Session Two, David H. DeVorkin, curator at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (NASM), focused on Geller's scientific interests and activities, including publications, major collaborations and specific research projects. DeVorkin's goal was to gain a greater sense of Geller's extensive contributions to the field of astronomy. The second session was conducted at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts, first in Margaret Geller's office and later in the image processing laboratory, where DeVorkin and Geller were joined by visiting professors Emilio Falco and Massismo Ramella. The interview took place on July 16, 1990, shortly after Geller was notified about winning the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
This collection consists of two interview sessions, totaling approximately 7:00 hours of recordings, and 199 pages of transcript. There are three generations of tape for each session: originals, dubbing masters, and reference copies. In total, this collection is comprised of 21 original videotapes (21 Beta videotapes), 7 dubbing master videotapes (7 U-matic videotapes), and 4 reference copy videotapes (4 VHS videotapes). The collection has been remastered digitally, with 7 motion jpeg 2000 and 7 mpeg digital files for preservation, and 7 Windows Media Video and 7 Real Media Video digital files for reference.