Monday, May 3, 2010

Back to the Future

Since working on the Massachusetts Room Project, I have been able to see so many interesting pieces of Massachusetts’ past. Ranging from economic growth pamphlets to energy conservation efforts of the 1980s, I have learned so much about the importance of preserving the information from the past.

This past week I came across two very different, yet wildly interesting pamphlets. The first, entitled Business Opportunities in Space by The Center for Space Policy, outlined the goals of a conference held in 1984 to promote and expand space exploration. More specifically it was “aimed at developing a pragmatic understanding of the issues involved in the commercial exploitation of space.” Within the packet there is a letter from Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis encouraging people to attend said conference. Most interestingly, he notes that the conference will discuss the United States’ commitment to build a civilized space station for $8.5 billion. This space station was projected to create more than 5 million jobs by the year 2000 and was expected to build new industries related to gravity-free living. Since I was born in 1986, I found this pamphlet to be extremely interesting as I never had the opportunity to live through the Reagan Administration and it's ideas on space exploration. Thinking back to my childhood, it is quite humorous to think that a civilized space station was more understandable and believable than current technology such as the Internet.

The next pamphlet I found that piqued my curiosity has the longest title: In the 1950s Something Happened in a Few Small Laboratories in Massachusetts that has Transformed the World Forever. It is About to Happen Again. It contained information on what was then called photovoltaics, a term from the 1970s that means solar panels. This pamphlet outlines some goals set by Governor Dukakis which include applying these panels to all state highways, marine and railroad facilities. He also wanted to build a village demonstration project, where an entire community could be shown to run economically and efficiently on photovoltaics. Although this is not where we are in the United States today, this idea is definitely more likely to happen in the near future than a civilized space station. For now, any further information on these two topics can be found in the Massachusetts Room of the State Library. Hopefully I will have some more interesting finds for you soon!

- Sarah Pickard, Preservation Intern