Stanford Libraries’ transformative gift creates hub highlighting Silicon Valley history

The first floor of the Cecil H. Green Library will be renovated and renamed Hohbach Hall, offering improved access to curators, historians and materials that document the creation and continuing evolution of Silicon Valley.

Stanford Libraries has received a $25 million gift from the Harold C. and Marilyn A. Hohbach Foundation to create a vibrant collections-centered research hub and endow the Silicon Valley Archives program.

Green Library

The first floor of the East Wing of the Cecil H. Green Library will be renovated and re-named Hohbach Hall. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The newly renovated space in the East Wing of the Cecil H. Green Library will be named Hohbach Hall and will include a new Special Collections classroom, as well as spaces for group study, seminars, events and exhibitions.

Harold Hohbach, who passed away in 2017, was a patent law attorney and real estate developer. A great admirer of Silicon Valley inventors and an innovator himself, Hohbach had long aspired to create a space to challenge and inspire the leaders and entrepreneurs of the future. When he learned about the vast collection and research arm of Stanford’s Silicon Valley Archives, Hohbach made a commitment to fund the renovations of Hohbach Hall and sustain the program’s efforts to capture the evolving history of the region and its contributors.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne noted the significance of the Hohbach gift as the university and its libraries look to the future needs of students and faculty.

“Our library system continues to be a critical platform for discovery and research, and this very generous gift will create an intellectual hub that fosters bold thinking and sparks curiosity,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

He added, “Hohbach Hall will offer one of the most complete and active research collections on Silicon Valley history. Students, scholars and society all benefit when academic libraries have the ability to develop research tools, curate and organize growing amounts of content and data, and evolve their facilities and systems to improve access and delivery of information.”

Inspiring the next generation

Exhibition areas will be located throughout Hohbach Hall and feature such items from the Silicon Valley Archives as design documents and drawings for Douglas Engelbart’s first computer mouse prototype and early audio and video recording technology from the Ampex Corp. collection.

The spaces will allow staff to curate and display, in physical and digital forms, documents, photographs, equipment and ephemera from some of Silicon Valley’s largest companies. Hohbach had commissioned nine original oil paintings to celebrate the ingenuity that powers Silicon Valley; these paintings have been donated to Stanford and will hang in Hohbach Hall on a rotating schedule.

“Harold had deep respect for the inventors he worked with during his 50 years as a patent attorney,” said Marilyn Hohbach. “It was important to Harold that the drive and passion of entrepreneurially minded students be encouraged and the accomplishments of the Silicon Valley inventors that came before not be forgotten. He saw the opportunities for the materials from the Silicon Valley Archives and his paintings to become educational tools that would inspire students to reflect and seek solutions for issues we face today and in the future.”

The Hohbach gift comes as the libraries celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the expanded main library building. Jane Stanford’s decision to erect a new “grand library” just outside the Main Quadrangle was a conscious effort to attract the best and the brightest to Stanford as the university was establishing itself among its peers. The original library building she designed collapsed during the 1906 earthquake, but her notion of creating a location for knowledge communities to gather and explore took root. A new main library was opened in 1919 at its current location.

“The ability of the Hohbach family to look past today and invest in our ability to offer future students and scholars new ways to engage with the library through archives and collections will stimulate the research engine beyond what we can imagine now,” said Michael Keller, university librarian and vice provost for teaching and learning. “Our loyal supporters make it possible for the libraries to both address the current scholarly needs of our users and anticipate how students and faculty will use our library system well into the future. Hohbach Hall will be a prime example of these realizations.”

Interdisciplinary exploration

Stanford Libraries has recently repurposed library space to engage users directly with collections, expert staff and new technologies. The David Rumsey Map Center, which opened on the fourth floor of Green Library in 2016, served as inspiration for Hohbach Hall. The Rumsey Map Center has created a place that fosters exploration of ideas across several disciplines.

Harold Hohbach

Harold Hohbach (Image credit: Courtesy Hohbach family)

Hohbach believed the innovative nature of Silicon Valley appeals to interdisciplinary research extending far beyond the domain of any one discipline.

Since opening in 1983, the Silicon Valley Archives has supported a wide array of research projects, including partnering with economic historians to understand the technological drivers of economic growth and supporting historians of science as they pieced together the development of key ideas and technologies. Some of this research mapped cluster effects and patterns of growth in Silicon Valley by business scholars. Stanford’s Silicon Valley Archives has also supported media artists and documentary filmmakers who have sought to interpret and document the origins, spread and impact of technologies on the American and global societies.

The archives currently encompass more than 300 collections relating to the history and development of Silicon Valley.

“It is a unique archive in the sense that it is very much a living archive,” said Henry Lowood, who helped establish the Silicon Valley Archives and who will assume the curatorship named for Harold C. Hohbach. “As we assemble an archive of materials from Silicon Valley’s past, we are also actively developing new approaches to archival documentation that will chronicle the region as it is today and will be in the future.”

The gift from the Hohbach Foundation, according to Lowood, will transform the Silicon Valley Archives “from a well-used storehouse of information into a nerve center for research, study, conversation, collaboration and learning.”

Renovations for Hohbach Hall are expected to begin in fall 2019.

Media Contacts

Gabrielle Karampelas, Stanford University Libraries: (650) 497-4414, gkaram@stanford.edu