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AFMC Expands its Aerospace Archive

  • Published
  • By William McLaughlin
  • Air Force Materiel Command History Office

(Commentary) While my Air Force laptop sits in line at the communications squadron, I’m afforded an opportunity to perform work that is normally outside my responsibility.  

Since joining the AFMC History Office team in 2018, I watched as our organization outgrew the tiny, cubicle alley from which it originated into a sprawling office space complete with the coveted and requisite marker of organizational success: windows.  These precious portals would go unappreciated for the majority of 2020, but not today. 

Instead of teleworking, I would be accessioning the recently donated collection of the prolific author Col. (Retired) Walter Boyne into AFMC’s burgeoning research facility.  In so doing, I thought it a fitting moment to provide a glimpse to the aerospace community into our and the nature of the holdings.

The private library of an author represents a window into their personality, and reflecting on what they decided to collect and retain illuminates their sense of truth and causation.  

In addition to authoring over 50 books in various airpower topics, Boyne chaired the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, held a unique distinction of being a nuclear ace with the 4925th Nuclear Test Group, and logged 120 combat hours in Vietnam.  As I processed box after box of his library, I recognized that I was handling the curated legacy of an engaged mind dedicated to foreign and domestic airpower, the development of airframes, and to the history of commercial and military aviation industrial firms. 

As unique as it is, the Boyne Collection represents only one of the distinct holdings that constitute the expanding AFMC Archive. In addition to the past and present organizational histories of AFMC and its antecedents, our office is working with the National Archives and Records Administration to transfer the Sarah Clark Research, Development, and Test Collection to Headquarters AFMC. The Clark Collection represents a one of kind assemblage of early aviation research and test history.

Historical Intelligence

Having the information and making it available are two different conversations. The AFMC history office is undertaking a massive digitization and outreach effort that we’re calling, "Historical Intelligence."  HISINT represents a combination of 100 terabytes of digital information, paired with machine learning, that eliminates the querying of 33 independent finding aids and associated metadata. The old process was onerous and required substantial specialization to navigate the archive. This effort opens the collection accessibility dramatically. The difference is between a modern search engine compared to your childhood library.

Key AFMC Archival Holdings

The Walter Boyne Collection: Many of the supporting documents and photos he utilized to write his books on Naval Aviation, the Luftwaffe, Airpower, the industrial base and more.

The Sarah Clark Collection: An expansive and unique research and development collection focusing on McCook Field and Dayton, Ohio ranging from the 1920s through the 1950s. Collection was developed by archivist Sarah Clark and maintained by NARA.

David Stumpf’s Minuteman Missile Collection.  AFMC supported  Stumpf’s upcoming book on Minuteman I and has received copies of all source documents associated with his work. 

How to Use AFMC’s Research Facility:

Please contact our Deputy Director and Chief of Archives, Ray Ortensie, or Tony Landis to schedule times and assistance with inquiries. 

For access to the classified archives, researches will need corresponding and current security clearances.