By Allison Campbell-Jensen
Christopher (Chris) Reutershan, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate developer, recently donated The Christopher Reutershan Collection of Computing and AI Literature to the Charles Babbage Institute Archives. “This is a very exciting and significant collection,” says Archivist Amanda Wick.
Reutershan is an avid collector of rare books, rare documents, and art. He started his computer history collection in the early 1990s when he befriended a well-known bookseller who specializes in the history of science, John Ptak.
Then located in Washington, D.C., Ptak’s bookstore had materials from the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Patent Office, NASA, and other libraries and sources.
“Rare documentation and publications from John’s store are the centerpiece of Chris’ overall collection on computer history,” Wick says.
Very few early computer materials were available in the early 2000s, so he then moved his collection’s focus to a comprehensive review through the late 1950s of major companies such as IBM and Univac. The explosive growth in micro and personal computers in the 1970s and early 1980s also captured his collecting interests. Then, about a decade ago, Reutershan acquired a significant portion of the personal library of Allen Newell, a computer scientist who was a pioneer in investigating artificial intelligence.
Wick is quite enthusiastic about the “new areas that this collection opens up to us —specifically in the depth and breadth of its A.I. and personal/micro computer documentation from the 1970s and 1980s,” she says. “The latter, especially, are areas in which I’ve been actively seeking collections, so I was delighted to accept Chris’s generous donation to the Archives.”