We are happy to read today’s press release from The Smithsonian Instutition’s National Air and Space Museum…
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has acquired a large collection from the Arthur C. Clarke Trust. The collection consists of 87 cubic feet of material representing the life’s work of one of the 20th-century’s foremost science fiction writers and futurists. The collection will be made available to researchers in the museum’s archives after being processed and cataloged.
“Arthur C. Clarke’s papers are a signature acquisition for the Smithsonian and the National Air and Space Museum,” said Martin Collins, curator of civilian applications satellites at the museum. “We have the honor of preserving and making available to researchers Clarke’s prominent place in the cultural history of spaceflight. Not least, the collection will enable the museum to tell a richer story of how science fiction and futurism interacted with contemporaneous space achievements, shaping our ideas about exploration beyond the Earth.”
Clarke, well known for penning the novel and screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey, was a writer of both science fiction and science fact. His contributions to the rapid technological development of the mid-20th century included popularizing the concept of a network of geostationary communications satellites—a cornerstone of 21st-century society—as early as 1945, 12 years before the launch of Sputnik. Clarke was also a noted deep-sea explorer, inventor and television personality. He covered the Apollo 11 mission for CBS alongside Walter Cronkite.
The Arthur C. Clarke Collection contains correspondence with notable contemporaries, including Cronkite, cosmologist Carl Sagan, aerospace engineer Werner von Braun and Smithsonian astronomer Fred Whipple. Other material in the collection includes video tapes, 16 mm films, audio tapes personal items and early drafts of the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Curator Martin Collins and Archivist Patti Williams traveled to Clarke’s home in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to catalog, pack and ship the collection to the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Support for the team’s travel and shipment of the collection were provided by FedEx.
Curator Dr. Martin Collins summed it up in a blog post…
From this vantage, Clarke’s interest in science fiction, as is evident throughout his papers, was not merely incidental but central: It was his essential tool, perhaps the best one, for sorting through and understanding this condition and educating readers about the time in which they were living. This insight helps makes sense, too, of his mix of professional activities: his many books and articles popularizing science and technology, especially on the themes of space technology and exploration, and his many speculations on the future. These efforts and his science fiction writing were all parts of the same project. In his later years, Clarke often said, if he was to have a legacy, he wanted it to be as a writer—asking to be seen whole, not fragmented across his different types of work.
We look forward to reading more in an upcoming issue of Smithsonian magazine story.