By Elaina Koros
Social psychologist and professor emeritus of psychology Philip Zimbardo, world renowned for the Stanford Prison Experiment, gave an extensive set of files, tapes and paraphernalia to the Stanford University Archives.
Zimbardo’s donation, announced in June, will be accessible to the public; certain materials will also be digitized and made available in the archives’ online database by the end of 2011. The materials showcase over 40 years of research, with files and letters related to Zimbardo’s studies, including the Stanford Prison Experiment, and notes and materials from the classes he taught at Stanford.
“It’s a very wide-ranging selection,” Zimbardo said. “I gave [the archives] access to virtually everything I had, and the archivist selected a set of materials that he thought would be of most value to people interested in my work, or me or the Stanford faculty in general.”
The donation includes papers from Zimbardo’s research on shyness, deindividualization, terrorism, cults and obedience. Additionally, Zimbardo included many videos and handwritten lesson plans.
“There are all these video tapes that he used in class or for experimental techniques,” Daniel Hartwig, a Stanford archivist, said. “It’s not just Zimbardo the researcher or the prison experimenter, but there’s also Zimbardo the teacher.”
Zimbardo chose to donate his papers to benefit future scholars, who will be able to easily access the digitized forms of his materials. Scholars will soon have the resources to do in-depth research into Zimbardo’s work.
“After many years of students asking us for primary resources pertaining to the Stanford Prison Experiment, now we can provide them the documents related to this compelling study,” said Mattie Taormina, head of public services and a processing manuscripts librarian for Stanford’s Special Collections and University Archives.“I’m particularly excited by the prospect of our undergraduates being able to consult these materials for their term papers.”
Having never digitized much of his work, Zimbardo appreciates the archives’ service of transforming the materials into a more accessible format.
“There are hundreds of videos and boxes of files and letters and manuscripts, many in my original handwriting, so [digitizing the materials] was something I couldn’t do myself,” Zimbardo said. “For me, it’s a great service that the University will be doing that hard work in transforming, for example, VHS or video tapes into a digital format or transforming many, many boxes of original materials into a digitized form that other people can use.”
Over the course of about a month, the team of archivists collected at least 50 boxes from Zimbardo’s office, which held most of the Prison Experiment materials, and transferred them to the archives. In the upcoming months, the archivists will collect the remaining materials from Zimbardo’s home in San Francisco and finish processing the audiovisual materials.
“The University Archives serves not only as the long-term memory of the campus; as part of the libraries, it has a mandate to collect and preserve unique materials that can provide the substance of future study and research,” said Andrew Herkovic, Stanford Libraries director of communications.“The Zimbardo papers provide a fine example demonstrating these dual roles of the archives, and these papers will doubtless be the subject of much investigation in years and decades to come.”
Zimbardo himself found gathering the materials from his files an interesting process.
“I was simply surprised when I went through my file cabinets, full of material that I have long since forgotten that I even had,” he said.
Zimbardo’s papers and other materials will be fully available to the public by the middle of 2012.
“We in the archives have a few collections of Stanford psychologists, but [Zimbardo’s collection] is clearly the most eminent of our collections at the moment, so it creates the field for us in special collections in the archives,” Hartwig said.