Megan Prelinger

Cofounder and Director of the Prelinger Library

3:00pm EST., Friday February 18th

Presenting Live via Zoom

Researching the Early NASA Era, Perspectives from an Independent Research Library

In NASA’s earliest years, agency objectives were unsettled by a lack of wide professional consensus around the prospect of human spaceflight. Among scientists, engineers, and allied professionals there existed wide-ranging debates about the appropriate aims of emerging space technologies. In this environment two trade periodicals, Missiles and Rockets and Aviation Week, reached large professional audiences with their coverage of industry news. In addition to articles and opinions, both magazines supported extensive industry advertising featuring imagery contributed by commercial artists working from a wide range of graphic traditions. Many advertisements were dense bundles of text and image that combined to envision, comment on, and advocate for various technology futures. In the 21st century, however, this history is not easy to discover. Libraries across the country have been impacted by multiple forces that have bumped trade periodicals from their shelves, created ad- free digital copies, and engaged in overreach around policies of enclosure, making these magazines and all that they offer very challenging for the general public to access today. This talk combines the author’s perspective as principal of a research library that maintains these magazines on behalf of the public with her perspective as a researcher who has excavated the histories within them to reveal otherwise unexamined aspects of the history of human spaceflight.

Megan Prelinger is cofounder and director of the Prelinger Library, independent research library in San Francisco. She is also an independent scholar and the author of two books, Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race (Blast Books, 2010), and Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age (W.W. Norton, 2015), which was recognized with an award from the IEEE. In addition, she co-directs Prelinger Archives, an historical archives of nontheatrical film. Also a naturalist, she currently teaches seabird ecology for Golden Gate Audubon Society and leads natural history field trips both privately and for the public.


Megan Prelinger

Page last modified February 12, 2022