Human Documents: The 'Database of Dreams' Archive at Mid-Twentieth Century

Thu., Sep. 8, 2011, 5:00pm - , 6:30pm

Rebecca Lemov (Department of History of Science, Harvard University) opens UBC's Science and Society Series, 2011 with her talk, "Human Documents: The 'Database of Dreams' Archives at Mid-Twentieth Century."

To be held September 8, 2011 from 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm at the Green College Coach House. 

Everyone welcome!


What does it meant to be a human document? This paper examines the history of a futuristic data bank built 1940s and 1950s America. It was an attempt by psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists to amass an unprecedented archive of personal data and store it in micropublished, forward-looking format. Instead of targeting material artifacts of lives and cultures, or the behavioral traces of human activity, its fieldworkers’ goal was to tap directly into the subjective life and gather “human documents” – including dreams, life histories, and projective test results -- that provided access to the inner experiential reality of human subjects from around the world. The data bank’s rise and fall into stasis – it has rested for 50 years in a state akin to suspended animation -- is traced.