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History of AAPT — Additional AAPT Activities

Some of the activities begun during the life of the Commission were joint with AAPT from the start or were assumed entirely by AAPT almost from the start. The preparation of "resource letters," annotated bibliographies on specific topics, had been introduced by Gerald Holton, then a member of CCP. The first three letters were produced under the supervision of the Commission, but the project was made the continuing responsibility of AAPT. An AAPT Committee on Resource Letters was set up; Arnold Arons, then at Amherst College, was chair and the first Resource Letter Editor. Development of the ideas was made possible by two successive grants from the National Science Foundation, but the production is now part of the regular AAPT budget. The resource letters are published in the American Journal of Physics, and many of them appear again in reprint books together with some of the most useful articles cited in the parent letter. Publication of the books was at first handled by AIP under AAPT sponsorship, but they are now produced by the Executive Office. Revenue from sales of the books is intended to cover the cost of publication. Joel Gordon, Arthur R. Quinton, and Aaron J. Owens have been successive editors following Arnold Arons, and at present the task is in the hands of Roger H. Stuewer of the University of Minnesota.

The history of another activity fostered by the CCP, the Film Repository, has been more uneven. AAPT had long been interested in instructional films, and during the 1950s its Visual Aids Committee, headed by Mark Zemansky, brought out in cooperation with McGraw-Hill Book Company a series of short films on topics in elementary physics. The more ambitious series of longer films, some equally appropriate for high school or college, was produced by the Physical Science Study Committee. An increasing number of excellent films were produced and marketed by others. But with a few notable exceptions, such as "Frames of Reference" (Hume and Ivy), the use of films in formal instruction has all but disappeared.
The use of cartridge films promised a way out of the difficulties involved in showing more ambitious movies in the classroom. AAPT set up a film repository to distribute single-concept films. To encourage their production, a Film Competition was a feature of annual meetings from 1968 to 1981, alternating with the Apparatus Competition. Winning films were eligible for the repository, provided they were accompanied by adequate explanatory notes for instructional use. Film making has declined as video production has become more important, and the film repository has been phased out. The ongoing activity, a very successful one, was the distribution of sets of 35-mm slides. This activity, initiated by the AAPT Committee on Instructional Media, has been in the hands of the Executive Office since 1976.

In 1987 AAPT set up an AAPT Instructional Materials Center (IMC) at and with the support of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Robert Fuller, an AAPT Past President, was appointed as the first editor. The IMC has brought AAPT back into the media business with videotapes [AAPT Skylab Videotape (1975), Toys in Space (1987), The Puzzle of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse (1989), and Physics for Phun (1990)], a videodisc [Skylab Physics (1988)], and computer software. A compilation of physics demonstrations on laserdiscs, Physics: Cinema Classics (1993), brought classic physics demonstrations and the latest technological advances together to create an invaluable teaching resource. In 1996, the IMC was disbanded and the publications committee was charged with producing interactive materials.

Increasingly, the Executive Office also makes available documents of other types. Annually, the AAPT Executive Office publishes a Products Catalog that lists all the publications and other teaching aids that are currently available from AAPT. These aids can be categorized as follows: (1) occasional publications on topics of interest to physics teachers, e.g., Teaching Physics Safely (1979), Demonstration Handbook for Physics (1981), A Potpourri of Physics Teaching Ideas (1987), String and Sticky Tape Experiments (1987), and How Things Work (1992); (2) reprint books of articles published in professional journals on specific topics, e.g., Trapping Neutral Atoms (1998), History of Physics (1988), and Global Warming (1995); (3) audiovisual and computer materials; and (4) conference reports and AAPT position papers. Typically the need for these products is identified by an AAPT member or committee. Review procedures are managed by the Publications Committee. The production, marketing, and order fulfillment are managed by the Executive Office.