This is the first of a three part series describing the creation of the Challenger collection, a project to digitize and make available primary source materials related to the Space Shuttle Challenger and the disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986.
The collection can be accessed here.
The process of creating any collection begins with curation. In the case of the Challenger collection most of the heavy lifting had been done for us already. Because Christa McAuliffe is an alumna of Framingham State our archives and special collections departments have a trove of primary source materials relating to many aspects of her life. Our goal is to create a collection that focuses specifically on the Challenger disaster and the lives of the astronauts involved. We are in a fortunate position to have the physical materials concerning Christa already processed and cataloged. Our first step was to select which material we planned to digitize for inclusion in our collection.
We combed through the hundreds of photographs in the library’s collection, selecting 53 images appropriate for our project. We eliminated photographs for a number of reasons, such as poor quality or the inclusion of a visually similar image. We also eliminated photographs due to ethical considerations; for example, we did not think it appropriate to include images of the explosion itself, or of the wreckage salvaged during the recovery process.
In addition to photographs we also have a large collection of ephemera related to Christa’s training and the launch. We’ve chosen to include parking passes, press kits, personal guest lists, as well as three personal letters written by Christa while she was training at the Johnson Space Center. The selection process for these materials was straightforward as most of the items pertained directly to the launch. We selected only the letters Christa wrote while training.
The final items we’ve chosen to include in the collection are two congressional reports written about the Challenger. The first report was published by the Senate Committee on Science and Technology on June 9, 1986 and is commonly referred to as the Rogers Commission Report. The second report, Investigation of the Challenger Accident was published by the House of Representatives on October 26, 1986, and is a detailed investigation into the cause of the accident. As both of these reports were published by the U.S. government they are in the public domain.
With the items for the collection selected we turned to the process of digitization.