Transcribing the Sally K. Ride Papers

Posted on Mon, March 23, 2020
  • by: Patti Williams, Museum Archivist
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NASA astronaut Dr. Sally K. Ride became a national icon of achievement in science and space on June 18, 1983, when she became the first American woman to fly in space. The National Air and Space Museum is pleased to announce that the Sally K. Ride Papers, consisting of over 23 cubic feet (38,640 pages!) of archival material chronicling Ride’s career from the 1970s through the 2010s, have been fully scanned and attached to an online finding aid, similar to a table of contents, for her historical papers.  

These new digital assets allow for a much larger audience to view and engage with the entire collection. Without ever visiting the National Air and Space Museum Archives, researchers and students can gain insight into Ride’s lifetime of professional achievements, as an astronaut, physicist, and educator.  

To make this collection even more searchable, three projects have been loaded in the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center, where, since 2013, Smithsonian Digital Volunteers (or “volunpeers” as we like to call them) have been collaboratively transcribing and reviewing historical documents to make them more accessible. 

This month, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and National Air and Space Museum Director Ellen Stofan are joining the effort to transcribe these first transcription projects related to Ride’s iconic NASA career.  Ride’s role as a NASA astronaut is illustrated through the projects relating to her Shuttle Training Notes from 1979 to 1981 and notes relating to her role with the Remote Manipulator System Arm.

Marbled notebook with Columbia sticker

Notebook used by Ride, featuring a sticker from STS-3.

Also included in the transcription projects are those centering on Ride’s notes from the NASA Commissions on which she served. Ride was training for her third flight when the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred and she was named to the Rogers Commission, the presidential commission investigating the accident. 

Yellow lined notebook

Notebook from Ride's participation in the Rogers Commission.

Ride later served on the Columbia Accident Board as well, the only person assigned to both shuttle disaster committees.  These notes show how Ride’s NASA’s legacy extended well beyond her actual missions in space, as she investigated causes and recommended remedies after the tragic losses.

typed sheet of paper

Talking points for a press conference about the Columbia accident.

The Museum is proud to play a role in securing Ride’s legacy by making this collection readily available to researchers and students for years to come.  If you are interested in helping, please join us in transcribing! Get started.

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