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.
Ramunas Kondratas, curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH), was interested in documenting the history, development, and applications of the DNA Sequencer. He also explored the commercialization of the instrument, including its testing and marketing, and addressed current and future uses of the ABI 370A model sequencer in medical research. Sessions were recorded at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, on October 19, 1988, at Applied Biosystems, Inc., in Foster City, California, on October 21, 1988, and at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, D.C., on March 27, 1990.
Interviewees included scientists and technicians at Cal Tech, ABI, and NIH. Jeannine Gocayne received a M.A. in molecular biology from the State University of New York-Buffalo in 1985 and was appointed a biologist and sequencing supervisor with the Receptor Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Section of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), NIH in 1986.
Several others provided additional information about the sequencer for the three video sessions. These people included: Kurt Becker, DNA Sequencing Product Manager; Kip Connell, research scientist; Marilee Shaffer, products specialist for DNA sequencing, ABI; and Anthony R. Kerlavage and W. Richard McCombie of the Receptor Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Section of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, NINDS, NIH.
Session one took place at the California Institute of Technology with Hood, Sanders, and Kaiser. Interviews focused on the history, design, and development of the sequencer prototype and its operation.
Session Two took place at Applied Biosystems, Inc., with Hunkapiller, Becker, Connell, and Shaffer and dealt with the commercial design, fabrication, and marketing of the sequencer and other related instrumentation. Tours of the assembly and manufacturing areas were included in the session, as well as a demonstration of how the DNA sequencing data is represented graphically on a computer.
Session Three took place at the Receptor Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Section of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, NINDS, NIH, where Venter explained and demonstrated the automated DNA sequencing processes during a tour of the lab. Kerlavage and McCombie assisted during the tour. Finally, Gocayne described the application of new DNA sequencing technology to work in the lab.
This collection consists of three interview sessions, totaling approximately 8:40 hours of recordings and 176 pages of transcript.