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Nov. 21, 2013

Now You Can Peruse Carl Sagan's Stuff

by Julie Leibach

Click to enlarge images
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Adults who love Carl Sagan can now search through his stuff. Last week, the Library of Congress announced the official opening of The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive, a 595,000-piece collection that chronicles Sagan’s multifaceted life. There are items from his decades as an established scientist and science communicator—book drafts, NASA and academic files, and correspondences with colleagues, for instance. Other nuggets reflect his earlier years, before “Carl Sagan” became a name tied to the cosmos. There are scholarly notebooks from college, for instance; open one up and you might find a page of equations and cursive notes. His birth certificate made it in, too. And then there’s what some would perhaps consider the pièce de résistance: a cartoon depicting what a young Sagan envisioned as the trajectory of human spaceflight, sketched when he was between the ages of 10 and 13. “I think all of us were charmed by that drawing,” says Connie Cartledge, a senior archives specialist at the Library and the team leader for the project. “It’s just such an amazing item, that a young boy was thinking these types of thoughts about the future of interstellar flight.”
 
As one of the Library’s larger collections, the Sagan archive took a comparatively short time to organize, according to Cartledge. Her 14-person team started tackling the contents—delivered in 798 boxes the size of filing cabinet drawers—in late winter 2012. As the team puts the finishing touches on the archive, hard-copy files are now open to the public. Archivists are also working on a digital collection (the completion date has not been finalized).
 
While overseeing the endeavor, Cartledge was struck by Sagan's busy life. “You would just look at messages and reminders that his staff would send him,” she says, “[and] it was amazing how many projects that he had going and what a high energy person he must have been.”  
About Julie Leibach

Julie is the managing editor of ScienceFriday.com. She is a huge fan of sleep and chocolate.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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