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Guide to the Gwen Bell artifact and book collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of the Collection
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Gwen Bell artifact and book collection
    Identifier/Call Number: X6288.2012
    Contributing Institution: Computer History Museum
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 499 items
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1800-1955
    Date (inclusive): 1541-2000
    Abstract: This rare and important collection comprises written works and physical objects relating to early calculating instruments and methods. With material dated between 1541 and 2000, the collection offers researchers a unique window into the early origins and development of history’s most significant calculating devices and methods.
    Languages: English, French, German, and Latin.
    creator: Bell, C. Gordon
    creator: Bell, Gwen

    Access Restrictions

    The collection is open for research. However, due to the age and fragility of many of the items, if a digitized version is available, researchers will be directed to the surrogate item.

    Publication Rights

    The Computer History Museum (CHM) can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Copyright restrictions may apply and users are responsible for satisfying any claims of the copyright holder. Requests for copying and permission to publish, quote, or reproduce any portion of the Computer History Museum’s collection must be obtained jointly from both the copyright holder (if applicable) and the Computer History Museum as owner of the material.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of Item], [Date], Gwen Bell artifact and book collection, Lot [#], Box [#], Folder [#], Catalog [#], Computer History Museum.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gwen and Gordon Bell loans converted to gifts in 2012 and 2014.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Gwen Bell earned her B.S. from the University of Wisconsin in 1957 and a Master of City and Regional Planning from Harvard University in 1959. She earned a PhD in geography from Clark University in 1967. Bell co-founded what is now known as The Computer history Museum with her husband Gordon Bell and Ken Olson in 1975. Gwen Bell was the Museum’s first director and was active with the Museum until 1998.
    Gwen and Gordon Bell began proactively collecting pre-computing artifacts in 1975. Their first purchase was a 1903 six digit Millionaire calculator. By the time the Digital Computer Museum opened in Marlboro, MA in 1979 they had approximately 80 books, calculators, and navigational instruments. When The Computer Museum History Center (TCMHC) was established in Mountain View, CA in 1996, the collection had grown to roughly 400 artifacts and books, which they had on permanent loan with TCMHC.

    Scope and Content of the Collection

    The collection documents the early origins and development of human measurement and computation through rare books and related artifacts. Dated between 1541 and 2000, the collection contains over 200 books of algorithms and tables, and monographs on measuring and computing devices, as well as nearly 300 machines and devices related to the books.


    The collection is arranged into two series:
    Series 1, Algorithms, tables, and history of calculation books, 1541-1995, bulk 1800-1955
    Series 2, Pre-computing artifacts, circa 1600-2000, bulk 1850-1975

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Mathematics--Early works to 1800