The Passing of Dr. John N. Warfield, 84

Dr. John N. WarfieldSpecial Collections and Archives was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. John N. Warfield, a long time professor here at George Mason University. His career spanned an impressive number of fields, from electrical engineering and computer design, to philosophy, to his culminating work in Systems Science. Professor Warfield donated his collection of professional papers to Special Collections and Archives in 2000. The collection is extensive – 100 archival boxes of material – and selected portions can be found online at The John N. Warfield Digital Collection. Work is ongoing to select other important and interesting portions of the collection for digitization and online presentation.

On a personal note, I am disappointed not to have had the chance to meet Professor Warfield. I started work on his collection just two short weeks ago, and have only begun to wrap my head around the fascinating range of subjects he studied over the course of his long career. We are fortunate to have a considerable number of multimedia recordings of Professor Warfield, including oral history interviews, videos of his class lectures, and filmed sessions of his Interactive Management process. But I know that as I continue to work with his collection, I’ll have my own questions, and I had been looking forward to opening up lines of communication with the man behind the ideas.

Going forward, we have some exciting plans for further development of the online exhibition of Professor Warfield’s collection. His theories on complexity and systems design formulated gradually over decades of work, and the collection reveals how his cutting edge ideas took shape. We intend to construct a visually dynamic online exhibition that will showcase both the development of his philosophies, as well as their ongoing relevance to those interested in complexity and systems design.

Our condolences go out to his wife Rose and the entire Warfield family.

Dr. Warfield (upper right) and a colleague work on an early computer in the 1950's. (Source: The Pennsylvania State Engineering Review, Summer 1954)

Dr. Warfield (upper right) and a colleague work on an early computer in the 1950's. (Source: The Pennsylvania State Engineering Review, Summer 1954)

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20th Anniversary of the Fall of The Berlin Wall

Wall @ Mason

Wall @ Mason

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided Berlin as well as the three Western sectors of Germany from the surrounding area of Brandenburg.  Originally composed of barbed wire, the Wall was 95 miles long and eventually 13 feet high and as wide as 100 feet.   It included a lighting system, 40 yard “death strip”, watch towers, trip alarm fences, and sharpshooter stations. There were two walls facing East Berlin. The purpose of the Wall was to stop people from leaving East Germany This was due primarily to the catastrophic economic situation resulting from forced collectivization and persecution by the SED party and state security services. During the 28 years of the Wall’s existence  nearly 475,000 East Germans escaped to the West. In addition, 125 people died while attempting to escape.

The  end of travel restrictions between the border of East and West German was anti-climatic and was first announced by Gunter Schabowski, a member of the Politburo and newly elected Central Committee Secretary for Public Information during an interview with a journalist for the Italian Press Agency on November 9, 1989.  Parts of the Wall were taken down over the next couple months and a crossing point was made at the Brandenburg Gate on December 22, 1989. Today only six fragments of the Wall remain standing as a reminder of this outrageous injustice.

George Mason University and other organizations in the area have planned a number of events to commemorate the  fall of the Wall. Here are some that you should not miss:

George Mason University – Fairfax Campus

Center for History and New Media

Making the History of 1989 –

Nov 9

12:00 Unity Walk Location: South Plaza

1:00 Demolition of Wall Replica Location: near Clock Tower

Nov 10

1:30 Talk by German Novelist, Peter Schneider Location: Ballroom, Sub II

Nov 17

1:30 “1989, The Berlin Wall: The View from the Ambassador” by German Ambassador, Dr. Klaus Schiaroth Location: TBA

University Libraries

Wall Exhibit Location: Special Collections & Archives (C Wing, 2nd Floor)

Wall @ Mason

Wall @ Mason

Goethe-Institute,  Washington, DC

Nov 4 – Jan 8

“Iconoclash: Political Imagery from the Berlin Wall to German Unification”, an exhibition co-curated by Marion Deshmukh, Associate Professor of History and Art History, George Mason Univeristy

Nov 9th

9-6:30 “The Rise and Fall of our Own Berlin Wall”: Includes construction and decoration of “The Wall” throughout the day. Ulrich Braess, Director of the Goethe-Institute, will preside over the “fall of the Wall” around 6 pm. Films showing different perspectives about the Wall will also be presented.

6:30 Wende Flicks Series: “Jana & Jara” (This series features films by East Germans)

Nov 16

6:30 Wende Flicks Series: “Burning Life”

Nov 23

6:30 Wende Flicks Seris: “Heart Leap”

Nov 30

6:30 Wende Flicks Series: “Leipzig in Fall”

My next post will feature our exciting recent acquisition of 7,439 posters from East German cultural, film, performing and visual arts, and political organizations. In addition, we have also acquired a photographic archive of the Wall from its construction to its fall.

SC&A DDR Poster Collection

1 of 7,439 posters in the SC&A DDR Collection

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The FUNdamentals Revisited

As many of our loyal readers may know, this past April we created a short video on proper book care standards as part of National Library Week titled The FUNdamentals of Book Care in Five Easy Lessons. The film was a great success and is now being used all over the globe to help educate people on the proper ways in which to handle library materials. We recently updated the film and made it a little bit shorter.

Please watch the latest version here:

jackie face

The video stars a number of staff members from George Mason University Libraries, including Jackie the Librarian. The video also features original music composed and performed by local musician Rodney Richardson.

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From the Back of the Vault: Testing Space Suits for NASA

The suits used by NASA astronauts in space missions undergo strenuous testing on Earth before they ever make it into outer space.  While in space, astronauts conduct experiments, make repairs, and do other types of space-related work wearing one of two types of spacesuits.  Intra-Vehicular Activity (IVA) suits are worn for, as the name implies, work inside the spaceship.  Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) Suits are worn for work outside the spaceship.

EVA suits in particular have much more design-related research and development in them, as astronauts have engaged in a variety of activities in space and encountered many dangers.  EVA suits have to protect wearers from space debris, depressurization, and temperature extremes. At the same time, astronauts require the mobility to grasp objects, climb, walk, and bend so as to be able to perform their tasks outside of the ship.

This video [EVA Suit/Glove Development Video Conference, April 7, 1986] was given to our department several years ago by an unidentified donor.  It is a film of a 1986 teleconference between NASA officials (most likely in Washington, D.C.) and other participants taking part via telephone during a video uplink between what appears to be three different locations.  A panel of five participants is in a studio in Washington, while two others take part remotely via telephone connection.  As they view films of EVA suit and glove testing spanning several years, they comment on the design merits of the suits and add invaluable historical background information.

To view a short video segment, click on an image.

EVA suit test ca. 1967

EVA suit test ca. 1967. Still image from the film.

NASA panel, April 7, 1986

NASA panel, April 7, 1986. Still image from the film.

Though the main tone of the meeting in the recording is one of seriousness, as it is a discussion between NASA engineers regarding very expensive life-saving technologies, the video contains a few humorous sections.  In a 1968 test a subject performs calisthenics and plays football while wearing an EVA suit.  He is assisted by three men in dress shirts, ties, and glasses.  As the two telephone participants keep the discussion businesslike, members of the studio group periodically chuckle at the sight of the space-suited man running around a football field with hoses and wires attached to him.  One even jokes that “the (Washington) Redskins could use him” after he catches a pass while weighted down by a space suit and tethered to a NASA vehicle parked on the field.

NASA EVA suit tester does toe touches on the gridiron

NASA EVA suit tester does toe touches on the gridiron. Still image from the film.

As an historical document, the 57-minute film provides rich background in the mechanics and history of testing space suits from the Apollo program in the late 1960s up to the Space Shuttle program in the mid 1970s.  It details the types of testing EVA suits and gloves underwent during this period.  The scenes portray NASA as a thorough and thoughtful organization in terms of determining the effectiveness of the equipment that went into outer space.  The running dialogue between the engineers adds detail, context, and sometimes humor to the original film clips.

A subject dons a "hard suit" during a test

A subject dons a "hard suit" during a test. Still image from the film.

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More Images from Ah, Wilderness!

There are so many great images from Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! in our collections. Here are some of the others featured in the exhibit…

Image from the FTP Production in New Orleans, June 3, 1938. Act III: Muriel keeps her tryst with Dick

Image from the FTP Production in New Orleans, June 3, 1938. Act III: Muriel keeps her tryst with Dick

Image from the 1954 Arena Stage Production

Image from the 1954 Arena Stage Production

Image from the 1978 Arena Stage production

Image from the 1978 Arena Stage production

Gerry Hiken as O'Neill's youthful hero, Arena Stage 1954

Gerry Hiken as O'Neill's youthful hero, Arena Stage 1954