Our Work

The Center for the History of Microbiology Archives (CHOMA) preserves historic materials related to the development of the microbiological sciences, as well as the history of ASM. The collections serve to inspire and inform generations of microbiologists and the public by providing the historical context of microbes and microbiology within all aspects of the human experience.

How the CHOMA Archives Were Founded

In 1935, ASM (previously known as the Society of American Bacteriologists) established the Committee on Archives to acquire and maintain records of the Society and materials related to the history of microbiology. In 1982, ASM and the University of Maryland Baltimore County agreed to house the ASM Archives at the university library, and the CHOMA Archives were officially established on June 4, 1985. Although the vision and mission of the CHOMA Archives evolved over time to support the expanding scope of microbiology, our commitment to providing access to historic materials that inform scientific and historical research has never wavered.

What's in the Archives?

With profound respect for history, we are committed to preserving these records, research and resources because we believe they can inform and help shape the future of not only the field of microbiology, but also society at large. This forward-thinking viewpoint is manifested as a world-class scientific archives that consists of audio recordings from key historic figures, biographies, research papers, lab notes, photographs and more.

  • Over 9,000 books on microbiology and related topics, including the Collected Letters of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.
Over 9,000 books on microbiology and related topics
Instructional materials including slides and motion pictures.
  • Primary research by noted scientists including On the Antibacterial Action of Cutures of a Penicillium by Alexander Fleming.
  • Extensive photography collection featuring significant individuals, locations and achievements in microbiology.

...and so much more!

Photographs of scientists, members, and microbes

Collection Highlights

  • Anne Sayre Collection of Rosalind Franklin Materials: Anne Sayre was an American author who is known for writing a biography of her friend, Rosalind Franklin, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA. The ASM Archives are home to Sayre's research materials, including taped and transcribed interviews with Franklin herself.
  • Biological Warfare Collection: This collection focuses on the research and development of biological weapons programs in the U.S. and is home to materials that are not available anywhere outside of the CHOMA Archives.
  • Miscellaneous Manuscript Collections: Featuring a wide variety of publications, manuscripts and correspondence, this collection focuses on the historical happenings during the first half of the 20th century and showcases renowned microbiologists, including Paul deKruif, Elizabeth Genung, Pearl Kendrick, Hubert Lechevalier and Otto Rahn.
  • Historic Documents Collection: Containing materials dating back to the 17th century, including many Philosophical Transactions, this collection features the minutes recorded by Thomas Jefferson for the founding of the medical school at the University of Virginia just a few months before his death on July 4, 1826. It established a public clinic providing medical advice, smallpox vaccines and surgery to all people.

Rosalind Franklin in Paris.

Source: Wikimedia

Papers of Prominent ASM Members

Rita Colwell Papers

Rita Colwell is distinguished university professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and past ASM President. Her research focuses on global infectious diseases, including cholera, and she is the recipient of ASM's 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award. Browse CHOMA's collection of materials related to Colwell's professional activities.

H. Orin Halvorson Papers

H. Orin Halvorson was a noted bacteriologist in his time, ending his career as Director of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Illinois in 1965. He served as President of ASM, as well as many other capacities over the years. His research focused on chemical and sanitary engineering, immunology, virology and bacterial physiology. Halvorson's tenure as president was during a pivotal moment in ASM’s history, and he was instrumental in the founding of ASM's Subcommittee on Minority Education (SME) and the Subcommittee on the Status of Women in Microbiology (SSWiM).

L. Joe Berry Papers

L. Joe Berry was Chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Texas at Austin and served ASM throughout his long career, most notably as editor of the Journal of Bacteriology and as a member of the council policy committee for over 20 years. His research focused primarily on the metabolic aspects of host response to infectious agents and the role of the reticuloendothelial system in response to infectious diseases, but perhaps an even greater legacy is the generations of students whom he encouraged and inspired. His papers are particularly useful for those looking at the history of ASM in the middle of the 20th century.

Get Involved

History in the Making

  • ASM Members are invited to upload documents for our Biographical Files Collection. Accepted materials include:
    • Curricula vitae.
    • Published articles/reprints by an ASM member.
    • Articles published about an ASM member.
    • Obituaries.
    • Images/head shots.
    • Other material related to career or advancement of the science.

Call to Donate Papers

Do you have materials that you think might be useful or of interest? Let us know what you have—it might be a valuable addition to our collection!


CHOMA by the Numbers


Years since ASM established its archives.


Years that CHOMA has been in operation.


Over 3,000
Members, staff, journalists, media, authors and students served.

The ASM Archives

The ASM Archives comprises a unique historical collection dedicated to preserving the history of the American Society for Microbiology.

Early ASM Headquarters in an undated photo.

Source: CHOMA Archives

Milestones in Microbiology Program

Milestones in Microbiology recognizes institutions and their related scientists that have made significant contributions to the microbial sciences.

Get Program Info

History of Microbiology Travel Awards

CHOMA offers 2 annual travel awards to support research conducted at the ASM Archives on the history of microbiology.

Learn How to Apply

Exploring ASM’s DEI History: Inspiring Early-Career Scientists

Learn about the importance of fostering an inclusive environment that uplifts early-career microbiologists from historically excluded groups.

Read the Article
Iconography on behalf of Freepik, SBTS2018, Nikita Golubev & Dreamstale via Flaticon.