The Carnegie Mellon University Archives are creating the world’s first dedicated robot archive to serve as the pre-eminent archival, historical, and instructional resource on robotics as a scientific discipline, a field of practice, and a cultural force that remade the modern world. 

We’re telling this story in a way it has never been told before, in partnership with many of the faculty, researchers, students, alumni, and friends of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Our intent is to capture a wide breadth of stories about the research, impact, and lived experience of the robotics community at Carnegie Mellon.

Telling the Story of Robotics. Properly. 

The science of robotics is essential to the development of the modern world. CMU is at the center of this transformation. Here, the greatest minds in the field design and test technologies that reshape the fabric of modern life. 

The first phase of The Robot Archive is the creation of an online portal that will provide public digital access to an ever-growing collection of images, videos, documents, and recorded memories that encapsulate the work of the Robotics Institute, the specialties of its many centers, and the broad interests of its researchers. Our initial focus will be the Field Robotics Center and its iconic head, Red Whitaker, to be followed by collections drawn from labs and projects that reflect the diversity and scale of robotics at CMU. Through oral history interviews, artifact collections, and special digital exhibits, the portal will offer a window into the human stories behind the history of robotics.

From contributions of Red Whittaker and other early faculty partners, the scope of the project expands to include many voices that have emerged from the CMU robotics sphere—students, alumni, researchers, partners in government and the private sector. Contextualized materials and exhibits showcase their technological know-how, rigorous scientific process, and competitive spirit, and highlight the broader impacts of their work. CMU and the city of Pittsburgh play key roles in this story, providing fertile grounds for bold action, where the convergence of research and industry fuels innovation. Future venues for sharing The Robot Archive’s narratives include physical exhibits, a conference, and an eventual laboratory-style museum. 

Inspired by the Robotics Institute’s distinctive culture that meshes large-scale dreaming with hands-on tinkering, the program is ambitious in scope, with the goal of achieving national recognition for the collection and its educational outreach activities within five years. 

Why the University Archives?

The Robot Archive is a flagship project for the Libraries’ initiative to uncover, clarify, and promote the history of science, technology, and information at Carnegie Mellon. Working with a cross-campus team of faculty and subject matter experts, the University Archives will establish a cutting-edge model for archiving complex, multi-modal technology collections.


Record of Robotics at CMU Part I: A Conversation with Red Whittaker and Chris Urmson—On August 4, 2020, the School of Computer Science and University Libraries explored the history of robotics and autonomous vehicles through the eyes of Founders University Research Professor Red Whittaker and his former student, Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of Aurora. Also joining the conversation to share some exciting updates about the University Archives' work in preserving the story of robotics was Katherine Barbera, Archivist and Oral Historian at CMU. Kevin Dowling, also a former student of Red's, joined as special guest moderator. Watch the recording.

Record of Robotics at CMU Part II: A Live Interview with Manuela Veloso—On October 20, 2020, pioneering roboticist Manuela Veloso, Head of JP Morgan Chase AI Research and the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Computer Science was joined by her former students, Sonia Chernova, Joydeep Biswas, and Peter Stone to share their accounts and impactful anecdotes as students and witnesses to the evolution of the global impact of Robosoccer and CoBot. This exciting and exclusive live interview featured a conversation facilitated by Archivist & Oral Historian Katherine Barbera. Watch the recording.

Support this Project

Support this project by making a gift to the Robot Archive Fund.

For More Information

Morgan Walbert
Associate Director of Development, University Libraries
(412) 420-4958 | mwalbert@andrew.cmu.edu