Albert Einstein's office and blackboard (1955)

Community Collecting Initiatives

About the Works on Slate Collecting Project

“It requires little--a few men, a few students, a few rooms, books, blackboards, chalk”--Founding Director Abraham Flexner

As part of the Works on Slate Collecting Project, the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center is working to preserve and highlight the ephemeral works that have appeared on the blackboards and chalkboards across the Institute for Advanced Study's historic campus.

Founding Director Abraham Flexner envisioned the Institute for Advanced Study as an intimate community of scholars working with little more than a blackboard and chalk. While much about the Institute’s community has evolved in the ninety years since its Founding Director, the blackboards and chalk remain. Over time, the Institute’s blackboards have become iconic symbols and have served as tangible evidence of a scholar's mind at work. From Alan Richard's photograph of Albert Einstein’s chalkboard to John von Neumann’s list of “practical tools” required for theoretical physics, Institute chalkboards serve as important reminders of the scholar’s ability to transform a proverbial blank slate into new knowledge. 

We welcome scholars from across our community to share their photographs of Institute blackboards in the hopes to make them available for years of scholars to come. 

To be a part of the Works on Slate Collecting Project, get started here.