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Geneticist Edward B. Lewis
with Drosophila, 1960. Photo ID 10.24-181
The Caltech Archives are housed in a modern facility in the heart of the Caltech campus. Our reading room provides a small number of research stations, a browsing and reference library, and a small display space. We are open on weekdays only. Qualified outside researchers may apply for an appointment. For detailed visiting information, hours and directions visit our Access and Use page
The Beckman Room
The Archives also maintains the Beckman Room, which currently features a special exhibition on Caltech in the 1910s and 1920s, Becoming Caltech, Building a Research Community, 1910-1930.
The exhibit will be closed until further notice, but it will be open again as soon as there are the conditions to do so. This decision was made out of concern for the health of our community as a social distancing measure in light of COVID-19.
Exhibit hours: Open Monday through Friday, 11 AM - 4 PM. Closed on Holidays.
Location: The Beckman Museum is located in room 131 on the 1st floor of the Beckman Institute.
Admission: Admission is free.
In the 1910s and 1920s, Caltech dramatically reinvented itself, transforming from a manual arts academy to an engineering school, then expanding into a research institute. The school began building its current campus, recruited renowned faculty, constructed sophisticated laboratories, trained students to become leading researchers, and established new relationships with industry and government. On February 10, 1920, the Institute’s trustees acknowledged this transformation by changing the institution’s name from Throop College of Technology to California Institute of Technology.
A century later, the Caltech Archives presents the exhibition "Becoming Caltech: Building a Research Community, 1910–1930." It tells the story of Caltech's early growth through historical documents, objects, photographs, and film, organized into three sections. “Becoming” traces Caltech's evolution through the reformation instigated by George Ellery Hale and catalyzed by World War I. "Building Research" chronicles both the history of science, engineering, and the humanities at Caltech—ranging from the core activities of the 1910s (electrical engineering, chemistry, and physics) to the new fields of the 1920s (genetics, seismology, and aeronautics)—and the architecture and construction of the buildings which housed this research. "Community" explores the lives and culture of the students, faculty, and staff who made up the Institute, including athletics, clubs, the Athenaeum, and the big T that students carved out of the forest on the side of Mt. Wilson.
In the lobby of the Beckman Institute, two cases are displaying the Caltech legacy of Arnold O. Beckman (1900-2004), chairman of the Board of Trustees, 1964-1974, and Caltech alumnus (PhD, chemistry, 1928).
The Reading Room
Currently on display is "The Year 1900: Looking Back from the Millennium," a display of photos and artifacts from Caltech's predecessor institution, Throop (pronounced T-R-O-O-P) Polytechnic Institute.
A prior Reading Room exhibit "Scientific Instruments Ancient and Modern" may be viewed online.