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July 12, 2006

Library debuts online multimedia archive with R. Buckminster Fuller Collection

Stanford University Libraries has launched its first digital multimedia collection, making available online audio and visual content from the archive of the late architect, inventor and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. Approximately 380 hours of rare, original recordings, primarily of Fuller's lectures and public talks, have been reformatted from original analog recordings and can be downloaded as streaming audio and video by registered users. The R. Buckminster Fuller Digital Collection can be found online at

Fuller, who died in 1983, amassed a personal archive of more than 1,200 linear feet of papers, models, artifacts and recordings, which was acquired by Stanford University Libraries in 1999. The collection holds approximately 1,700 hours of audio and video recordings, originally recorded in formats ranging from wire recordings to reel-to-reel tapes and 16mm film. The obsolete recording formats and fragility of the materials have made the media collection inaccessible, and many of the recordings have been untouched for decades. "Thanks to digitization, today these recordings can be accessed by anybody with an Internet connection," said Hsiao-Yun Chu, assistant curator for the Fuller Archive.

Author of 28 books and the creator of the geodesic dome, Fuller lectured widely during the 1960s and 1970s, promoting design science, resource management and his own brand of mathematics, called "Synergetics." His lectures were largely improvised and unscripted, and listeners often commented that Fuller was easier to understand in his lectures than in print, Chu said. The media collection offers important insights into Fuller's thinking and provides an accurate historical record of his activities, she added.

Other digital collections currently available through Stanford Libraries include historical photographs of the university, geological survey maps and records, university publications and books in the public domain, among other resources. The Fuller digital collection is unique in that it is the first truly multimedia collection, delivering streaming audio and visual content to users on demand. "It is quite appropriate that Bucky Fuller is leading the way for our digital multimedia offerings," said University Librarian Michael Keller. "Digitizing materials invites greater use in teaching, learning and research, and enables new ways of understanding and using library holdings. It is incredibly important to provide information resources of all kinds for research; our users expect us to deliver the goods—to the extent possible, electronically—without limit as to source format."

Before there was an Internet, there was Fuller's "Spaceship Earth," the geodesic dome and Fuller's dream of universal synergy, said Fred Turner, assistant professor of communication. "Thanks to the online archive, Fuller's planetary citizens will all have the chance to tune in to some of his most cosmic presentations."

This digitization project was funded in part by a grant from the federal Save America's Treasures program.



Mattie Taormina, Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries: (650) 723-9246,

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