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Robert C. Speed (1933-2003) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/14/13

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Robert C. Speed Papers are arranged in 48 boxes (37 standard archival boxes, 1 legal size archival box, 5 drop front flat boxes, and 5 rolled map boxes).  The collection is organized into six series: Teaching Files, Nevada Files, Barbados Files, Caribbean Files (Non-Barbados), Citations, and Maps. The bulk of the collection consists of field notes, data sets, and drafts for the creation of geologic maps and publications, many of which are included here.  There is also a significant amount of material relating to teaching and student research.  Much of the correspondence is with other geologists concerning research, mapmaking, and joint publications.

The Teaching Files are contained in 3 boxes. They contain lecture notes, transparencies, and some syllabus information. Almost none of the files contain references to date or year, although the course titles and numbers can be cross-referenced with historical course catalogs in the Archives.

The 13 boxes of Nevada Files span the years 1953-2005 and contain correspondence, field notes, maps, annotated aerial photographs, manuscripts, student material, and publications by Speed and others. The order present in the accessions was largely retained, with some of the Nevada publications arranged at the end of the series. Correspondence, manuscripts, and publications located in the midst of field notes were left in those locations, since they evidently referred to surrounding materials in an interrelated fashion.

The Barbados Files fill 13 boxes (12 regular boxes, and one legal-sized box of Oversized Barbados Files at the end of the collection) and span the dates of 1848-2002.  This series contains correspondence, field notes, maps, photographs, manuscripts, student material, and publications by Speed and others. The basic structure and arrangement present in the accessions was retained.  Most correspondence, field notes, and publications are arranged together, except when situated in the midst of other material.  The bulk of the series consists of research material focused on the authoring of original maps.

The 7 boxes of Caribbean Files (Non-Barbados) cover mostly St. Croix, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela, along with some general material on the geology of the Caribbean area.  The structure and content of this series is consistent with the rest of the collection: correspondence, field notes, maps, photographs, manuscripts, student material, and publications by Speed and others, arranged in essentially the order in which it was accessioned.

The 2 boxes of Citations consist of publications that reference works by Robert Speed on the areas of Barbados, the Caribbean, and Nevada.

The Maps series fills 5 flat boxes and 4 long, rolled-material boxes.  The series contains reference maps; drafts and sections of original maps; and completed/published maps by Speed. They are predominantly undated. Many of the Nevada materials were photographed digitally by geologist Christopher Henry of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology in the fall of 2008 and are viewable as TIFs on DVDs 157-160 in the University Archives' DVD collection (Accession #08-166, Series 11) under the title of, "Robert Speed Nevada Geologic Maps."  While visiting the Archives, Christopher Henry graciously created formal descriptions of each Nevada map for the Finding Aid.


  • 1848-2003


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored at a remote campus location and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


48.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Structural geologist and geophysicist Robert C. Speed (1933-2003) taught at Northwestern University from 1966 to 2002. His work focused on tectonics, structural geology, and active continental margins, mostly in Nevada, Barbados, and across the Caribbean. These papers document Speed's research, fieldwork, publications, and teaching life.


The Robert C. Speed Papers are organized into: teaching files (arranged by course number); Nevada files (arranged broadly by geographic location; the chronology is erratic); Barbados files (grouped mostly by location); Caribbean files (Non-Barbados); citations; and maps (arranged by geographical location).

Robert Speed's widow, Christine Speed, went through the papers and created significant organization in 2007 and 2008. She provided the overarching structure of the collection, as well as providing numerous folder titles, clarifying adhesive notes, and explanatory notes on folders. Christine Speed's work was retouched as necessary to improve clarity and promote access.

The general order, following Christine Speed's clarification and arrangement, was kept. When there was significant information on adhesive notes, or substantial notes written on the old folders, these were retained. Since the papers came into the Archives in several sections, related groups of materials were placed together with similar material from earlier accessions. There appeared to be an underlying logic to the relationship of materials in each folder--sometimes through geographic location or because of similar geological structures. This arrangement was retained, as the University Archives assumed that an informed researcher might benefit from this original order. The order of the field notes, including some interspersed publications, was kept, assuming there was a relationship between the notes, drafts, and articles.

Method of Acquisition

The Robert Speed Papers were donated to the University Archives by Christine Speed over five accessions: #07-36 on 04/11/07; #07-46 on 04/20/07; #07-51 on 05/01/07; #08-3 on 01/08/08; and #08-166 on 11/05/08.

Separated Materials

A memorial book, entitled, "BOB SPEED here" Memorials & Records of ROBERT CLARKE SPEED, edited and arranged by Christine Speed, was removed and cataloged in the Northwestern University History Collection in the University Archives.

DVDs 157-160 in the University Archives' DVD collection (Accession #08-166, Series 11) contain digital photographs of the Nevada items in the Maps series under the title of, "Robert Speed Nevada Geologic Maps."

Approximately 5 inches of duplicated, published materials were discarded.

Guide to the Robert C. Speed (1933-2003) Papers
Jason Nargis
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US