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Smithsonian Awards Medals to Three Campus Projects

posted June 10, 1998

In April, three campus projects received medals from the Computerworld Smithsonian Innovation Awards program, and saw their work accepted into the institution’s permanent collection of information technology.

The medals recognize visionary and innovative uses of technology.

The permanent collection, established in 1989, is the world’s premier historical record of computing applications and innovations.

The three Berkeley medal winners are the Museum of Paleontology Web Site, nominated by Sun Microsystems; the Museum Informatics Project, nominated by Sybase, Inc.; and SERENDIP (Search for Extraterrestrial Radio Emissions from Nearby Developed Intelligent Population Project), nominated by Toshiba American Information Systems, Inc.

The three Berkeley winners were among 442 to receive medals, out of a nominated pool of more than 700.

Thomas Duncan, director of the Museum Informatics Project, was on the mall in Washington D.C. on April 6 to receive his project’s medal. His project, which develops museum and archival information systems, has enabled campus museums, archives and libraries to develop databases containing more than 100,000 digital images and to make them available to the world through the Internet.

“Mike Heyman, head of the Smithsonian Institutions, and a former Berkeley Chancellor, came to the mall for the opening ceremonies,” said Duncan. “He had encouraging and congratulatory words to say to all of us.”

The Museum of Paleontology Website, begun in 1992 by graduate students, is one of the largest sites on the Web, with more than 3,000 pages. Featuring a virtual walk through time, it covers evolution from trilobites to humans. Developed almost entirely without external funding, the site can be found at

SERENDIP is one of the world’s major projects scanning the heavens for extraterrestrial radio signals, using the world’s largest radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Though SERENDIP has yet to detect any extraterrestrial signals, project scientists continue to upgrade the equipment to look at and analyze more radio frequencies.

The April awards marked the 10th year that the Smithsonian has documented the history of the development of information technology.

Industry leaders from as far away as Thailand and Finland attended the awards ceremony in Washinton, D.C.

SERENDIP is Top Innovator in Science

Berkeley’s SERENDIP project was invited back to the Smithsonian Institution on June 8 as one of 52 finalists for 10 Innovation Awards, the winners of which would be announced at a dinner ceremony. Judges reviewed case studies of the 442 projects awarded medals and chose 52 as “the most representative of outstanding achievement, innovation and positive impact on society.”

“SERENDIP is a great project,” said its creator Stuart Bowyer, who planned to attend the ceremony in hopes of winning in the science category. “If we win it will be great fun.”

And fun it was, for SERENDIP won first place in the science category, garnering a medal as one of 10 1998 Laureates.

SERENDIP and the laureates in the other nine categories, which include business, arts and entertainment, education and medicine, will become part of the Information Age exhibit on permanent display in the National Museum of American History.

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