• 50 Years - A Million Thanks

American Masters Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud

Life, Facts & Artifacts
by Bonnie Goldstein DeVarco

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It may seem a contradiction that a man who not only made an impassioned call for doing more with less, but also coined the phrase itself, spent his life amassing, storing and carting around what now weighs in at approximately 90,000 pounds of personal history. But it is no contradiction when one realizes that Bucky knew, and planned for, a time when technology would allow that much material to easily fit into a space smaller than a shoe box. Even those of us who spend daily hours on the Internet and World Wide Web or must upgrade our computer systems or software several times a year are startled by the speed at which computers are getting better, faster and cheaper at a rate unparalleled by the performance curve of any other current technology. If Buckminster Fuller were alive he would probably not be surprised.

In fact, he would probably find more than a few ways to effectively harness its speed. There may be no better case study for a digital collection than Buckminster Fuller's archives, in a few years easy enough to fit in its entirety on a dozen CD ROMs weighing less than a pound. Rapid advances in computerized search capability exhibited by the "robots" of today, those tiny web spiders of search engines like Alta Vista, who crawl around the Web to provide links to billions of words on millions of pages in a global network of data may hold the key to both the internal and external cross-referencing of such a digital body of materials.

We are rapidly entering a time in which thoughts, facts or comments can be brusquely jotted down, absent of the necessary accouterments of formality, and faxed or e-mailed to someone halfway around the world in the blink of an eye. The era of true letter writing seems to be on the wane. As it ambles its way into becoming a much more quaint or antiquated art form, hand-written letters, or typed versions of manuscripts with hand entered revisions will be relegated to the collective memories of future generations --or to become only artifacts in the physical archives and libraries of their past. Meanwhile the ephemeral data on our computer screens--final, informal versions all--will someday fill the deep data banks of the ethers, available with the touch of a finger but not able to be touched again in their raw state from thought to pen--in fact, as part of the ubiquitous paperless home and office of tomorrow, never to become physical at all.

A personal, physical archives of such epic proportions as the one Bucky left could never be attempted again. He said as a comprehensivist he had no competition, because he had found nobody else during his lifetime who shared the importance of such a role for themselves. For a deliberate act of self-documentation which in Bucky's case left us with a longitudinal study of genius and more, he also did not have competition and probably never will. With paper replaced by cyberspace, who in today's world could amass such a large body of physical letters, papers and artifacts and leave such a remarkable context for discovery? For that matter, who would want to?

When a few paragraphs of formality give way to an avalanche of shared introspection, layers of the psyche or soul laid bare to a dear friend or lover, these letters could build throughout a lifetime into an oeuvre of self-reflection, an immensely detailed foray into the vast inner life of an individual-- all the better if that individual happens to be Leonardo da Vinci, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, or John F. Kennedy who left larger but far less spontaneous imprints on history with their contributions as historical figures. A better autobiography could not be found by these figures even if they took the time, in retrospect, to write one because these personal letters carry with them the specter of immediacy--the primary emotion of the moment rather than the secondary reflection and revision that is so much a part of memoir. Such is that intangible quality of raw intimacy that we experience when reading a tome that begins, "The Collected Letters of..."

But imagine if someone kept everything? Imagine if, during the process, he also became a visionary of world renown? Imagine if he kept everything in the order that it came in and out of his life. Relevant or not, a grocery list next to a letter of termination, a child's drawing next to a report from the AIA. Imagine if it was all bound together in chronological order where an official letter of recognition on linen paper emblazoned with the Presidential seal could follow a penciled scrawl in a letter from an inquisitive seven-year old child. For someone who by age 87 had received 47 honorary doctorates you could have each cap and gown as well as each official award. As documentor, you could have each camera and lens he owned, as geometrician, each of his most significant papers and first synergetic models, as engineer and architect every version of every blueprint of every building project and all of his drafting tools, as professor and lecturer, full transcriptions and recordings on film and audio of almost every public lecture. Imagine if, on a handful of CD ROMs we could have the "Collected Everything of..."


Buckminster Fuller, a dogged individualist with a singular mission and uncompromising self-reflexivity was a voracious self-documentor. Through this little understood facet of personal enterprise he will someday be seen as a bold pioneer of far more than his well-known artifacts and ideas. In a determined lifelong pursuit of patterns, of relationships, it should be no surprise that after more than 87 years of diligent searching, deep introspection and undaunted rigor, the greatest artifact he left us with was his life. Guinea Pig B.

Known by most as Bucky, he was a man who courted the world of the future, documented the life of the present and reframed the world of the past with fresh eyes. Although some of his views were idiosyncratic--Bucky was defined as much by hubris as by leaps of inspiration and genius--he left a body of artifacts that he was sure would long outlive him and perhaps offer by demonstration the rest of the story he so hoped to tell.

In his work as well as his life, Bucky was determined to be as "micro incisive" as he was "macro inclusive." While he worked tirelessly on the tiniest design details of what would become air deliverable shelter systems, he never stopped charting the broad trends of the global environment in which they would eventually land even fifty to a few hundred years hence. He set his sights on exploring the geometries of the outer reaches of the cosmos as well as their counterparts on the smallest scale, unraveled by the advances in microbiology during the course of this century, in order to discover the mathematical bridge between. And he hoped this system of geometry which hinged on the simplest structural system with insideness and outsideness, the tetrahedron, would reach deeply enough to attempt to reconcile the "metaphysical" world with the outside "physical" world as possible, explaining as much about the processes of thinking as it did the universe progressively probed by our instruments and directly experienced by our senses.

Bucky wrote that in the 1920s, he had planned to document the life of an individual born in the Gay Nineties who matures during the 20th century while "crossing the historical threshold from a static, inert Newtonian century into the dynamic, abstract Einsteinian Universe." He saw a vastly different world taking shape around him and vowed to capture it in his lens and somehow grab hold of the reins of that change. His explanation of this Einsteinian world view was the "Universe as an aggregate of only overlapping nonsimultaneous episodes--I have come to call 'scenario Universe' because of its resemblance to an ever-changing film script with the threads of new comings and goings interwoven into a complex story." Within this framework, Bucky wanted to "identify the function of humans in Universe" and began to understand humanity's collective role as "local problem-solvers and information harvesters."

In this role, one had to get used to ever-changing scenarios, to stop thinking of things in terms of finite isolated objects but instead as bodies in motion, affecting other bodies in motion all the time--pattern integrities in relationship to a continually transforming Universe. His life became a model for that shift of focus, traveling around the world so many times that he said he could feel the Earth rotating beneath his feet. He changed his sleep patterns to what he called, "dog sleep," with a fifteen minute nap every two hours--a practice which eventually accommodated his daunting schedule of speaking engagements around the world and satisfied his unquenchable thirst for explication.

Bucky's work assumed moving from a world of stasis to process--seeing things in motion, as they transform into myriad shapes and forms through time. He felt most at home with the world while it moved, embracing the grand oscillation of the meeting place between things, the sets of relationships that make up who we are. He was one of the few who gave us vision for that --a pair of glasses, a telescope that broadens the relevance of each and every ordinary person's life by example. An examined life.

I believe the examiner will be many future generations and the patterns of Bucky's life will be unraveled long after he has shared his unique world views with audiences around the world. Of his growing archives, he said shortly before his death, "I hope that the record so documented (and your hoped-for-by-me close examination of it) will serve as an encouragement to you as individuals to undertake tasks that you can see what needs to be attended to which are not to the best of your knowledge being attended to by others, and for which there are no capital backers." And he called himself "an ordinary man."


In the 1980s, self-reflexivity became a key concept and a commonly added component for inquiry in many of the academic disciplines, from physics to anthropology. From the new understanding that our own analytical models in the social sciences are themselves culturally constructed to the acceptance of the notion that the observer influences the observed in the laboratory, we are beginning to recognize the importance of looking at who is doing the looking as well as what it is we are looking at. For Fuller even in the early part of the century, this became a modus operandi. It was just as important for him to document what he was doing as as it was for him to do it.

From early on, Bucky unceasingly looked at what nobody else was paying much attention to. He called his approach comprehensive, he called it anticipatory, and with a devotion to the processes of objective and experientially based understanding, as a scientist would make his way through the experimental rigors beneath each hypothesis, he called it science. He was bothered by the limits of overspecialization, fascinated by the rapid evolution of technology which allowed us to do so much more with so much less, and acutely aware of the processes of globalization long before the world could fathom such a concept or had a word for it. He explored the benefits of lightweight shelter design, championed the importance of what he termed "a worldwide livingry service industry" and charted the correlations and patterns of seemingly unrelated events occurring around the world during each prolific decade of his life. In what he called his "experiment of individual initiative," Bucky never took a break, and never stopped documenting in every format possible--wire recordings, film, photographs, letters, manuscripts drawings, graphs, publications or transcripts--what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how.

In a world that was oblivious to the importance of such things, was it relevant for him to produce tools for a change that wasn't to occur for a few more generations? Would anybody take him seriously? Bucky knew of the time lag, the "invention to use gestation periods" between the time something is invented and the time it is adopted for industrial use. For livingry, or shelter, he used a framework of 50 years, stating that he deliberately designed far into the future. Perhaps he also knew the time lag between what he was doing and when anyone would find it worth the scrutiny. His experiment in self-documentation was designed accordingly. This was why he not only documented his own endeavors but kept a careful accounting of anything written or published by others about his work. At that point, he reasoned, who else would?

In just one section of the archives, the Clipping Files, what began as five broadsheet-size clipping scrapbooks documenting the first 25-year period of published articles about his work, artifacts or ideas from 1922 to 1947 eventually turned into to more than 60 file boxes of clips from magazines, newspapers, journals, brochures and press releases. These boxes are packed with items covering the broad range of his public life from kitsch to classic. You can find a full page ad in a 1941 issue of Vogue magazine showing glamour models swathed in fur coats next to Bucky's Dymaxion Deployment Unit to a cover story in Life magazine on his Montreal Expo '67 dome to a matchbook engraved with a geodesic dome restaurant to comic strips on Bucky's trade fair domes in Japanese newspapers of the 1960s to significantly positive reviews on Synergetics in 1975. Concurrently, his evolving trend chart through which he depicted the acceleration of these published accounts from the 1920s to the 80s showed a steep upward curve of public popularity and historical relevance. This would be only one of such illuminating statistical charts he used to objectify the range and reception of his life pursuits.


When archeology was but a fledgling discipline in its quest to find out more about the past, bones, pottery, jewelry were pulled out from the ground one by one, cleaned, numbered, and placed upon a shelf for identification. Only later their form and characteristics would be analyzed and classified, often bereft of any clues that may have been left behind in the dirt they had once been surrounded by. Many years later the discipline, seasoned by time and experience, began to understand how much information was being thrown away with each shovel full of earth. It finally became clear that the context of the dig itself--the ground from which the items came, was an important part of the equation when digging up the past. For it was the context that made the items and their relationship to one another relevant. Now archeological digs are measured to the micro level, depth, width and breadth, as each item found and its physical location in relationship to every other item is carefully described and logged, photographed or drawn in detail before being pulled. Now it is well understood that accurate inferences about the past cannot be made by items in isolation.

Such is the nature of Buckminster Fuller's archives. In its entirety, Bucky left not only a collection of important items, documents, sets of data and memorabilia, but more importantly, he left the context of a lifetime that includes both his failures and successes, insecurities and boldness, youthful infidelity and mature devotion. It includes the genesis of design ideas such as his earliest sketches of the Dymaxion Car on the back of an early letter he wrote while he was renovating the curiously similar hull of his sailboat, Lady Anne. It includes a set of papers with no less than four "Eurekas" furiously printed at the top as his geometry first gelled into the system he would later term synergetics. It contains his exhaustive 1948 draft to Einstein about the relevance of such geometry--a letter which was finally, never sent.

This is an archives that includes in every detail the physical remnants of seemingly irrelevant events that only many years later could be understood as great turning points in the life of a visionary. It includes not only the latest version of Bucky's evolving articles, essays, books but every version, replete with layers and layers of multi-colored marginalia. In it one can find countless transcripts of talks he gave around the world through the course of fifty years, including some handwritten by friends on lined paper going back to his earliest shelter lectures given to New York and Chicago audiences from 1929 to 1931. Numbering in the hundreds, most of these transcripts have counterparts in his media archives recorded on wire, audio tape or video tape.


In this growing body of materials that resulted from Bucky's life experiment, he knew that the only way for it to be useful was to organize it as he went. And organize he did, first with chronology as the main ordering system for his correspondence files which he called the "Chronofile." In the earliest years, this included literally every piece of paper that came in and out of his life. With his wife Anne's help in the early years, he retroactively compiled into bound volumes his earliest letters as a child and documents such as baptism papers and the extensive correspondence between them during his Navy years. Much later as his collection grew, he organized sections by project and by type of material. He started an index he called the Dymaxion Index which at first only included his itinerary and references to published items about his work. This index eventually grew to comprise 20 volumes and referred to 20 different sections of his archives from patent files to family history.

The itinerary alone comprises four thick volumes of the Dymaxion Index containing Fuller's day to day projects and activities, where he traveled, with whom he stayed, where he lectured, and what he spoke about or worked on from the 1960s on. The earlier itinerary is almost as detailed, with a full accounting of at least his week to week engagements, all major artifact prototyping and production, university appointments and projects, lectures and world travels. On just one page of the last fifteen years of his life you can see a jaunt from Philadelphia to Canada to Chicago to Italy and then to Israel in less than a week, each stop involving some meeting, lecture or project he was working on. Bucky was a consummate "world citizen" and his itinerary shows it.

But his itinerary can also be used as a key index to flesh out a period of his life. Choosing, say a period of about three months in 1953, the itinerary tells us where he was teaching, what building projects he was working on, what speaking engagements he had and where he was. You could go to the original drawings or blueprints, the photo and slide collection to get full documentation on the projects, the Chronofile for full correspondence, personal and professional, the project files for additional written documentation, reports or syllabi, the clipping files for any publicity on him during that time or any of his own published articles, the manuscript files for or transcripts of his talks and finally the media collection for audio and film or video. Before you know it you could be surrounded by everything that Fuller was surrounded by at the time, as if a doorway to the past had opened up for you. Did he plan it that way or was it a result of his incessant rigor?

Bucky was as rigorous with the documentation of his personal life as he was with his professional pursuits. He approached each exercise of documentation with vigor--from the extensive cross-index cards of his genealogy to his chronologically organized correspondence with his wife Anne during his Navy years, from his type-coded cache of selected photographs and copy negatives documenting each and every design project, artifact and period in his life to his life chart showing the intersection between global trends in communication and transportation and the evolution of his work. Not only did he compile extensive lists of his published articles and books, his keynote speeches, honorary degrees, awards and appointments, but also such seemingly maudlin things as a full listing of every car he owned during his lifetime. Nothing was considered unimportant--anything could prove relevant if documented in the same serious and deliberate fashion.

Even his fascination with graphs began with his personal experience. Bucky worked with Phelps Dodge on a copper autonomous bathroom unit in the 1930s, a practice that initiated his first official study of industrialization published in Fortune Magazine in 1940 and eventually led to his far more extensive trend charting of the voluminous World Design Science Documents of the 1960s and 70s. But before that, his first graph began with his little family of three. After the birth of his daughter Allegra in 1927, Fuller statistically charted her growth curve in her first months on graph paper now bound tightly in an early volume of the Chronofile. One page included an almost whimsical diagram of her little body growing from 7 pounds to almost 19 pounds in relationship to "Daddy's leg in same scale." He placed a graph outlining her week to week eating habits, health and activities in relationship to his job search and his wife Anne's routines during the first seven months of Allegra's life. Baby Allegra was even deemed "president" of his first company, 4D.


Bucky's archives is an archive of thousands. In the same way that he enlisted literally hundreds of students to carry out the calculations and prototyping and trouble-shooting that perfected geodesic math and demonstrated the possibilities inherent in geodesic structures, he also captured the enthusiastic support of hundreds of people to compile, organize and build his collection of self-documentation. Although he said he never subscribed to a clipping service, there are hundreds of clips from published items around the world supplied by services and numerous ones sent to him by people he knew, as well as those he compiled himself.

Bucky would tell people what he was doing and they would often send things back to him for his archives. Whenever he was filmed or audiotaped (if he did not already have something set up for that) he would ask for a copy --his media archives is rife with such great material gleaned from others. Of the thousands of photographs in his non-indexed photo collection, many hundreds were gifts from others which offered a broad spectrum of perspectives on his work and similar work by others. Bucky also kept full working records, reports and blueprints from almost all of the projects carried out by his students at universities across the nation during the 1950s and 60s. Portions of the archives are actually discreet sections of unindexed materials such as his full legal files returned by his legal and patent attorneys and boxes of project files from Shoji Sadao, his architectural associate for more than 30 years. Items published by or about Fuller's work continue to stream in to his archives even now, long after his death.

Bucky's friend and admirer, John Cage once said that Bucky really had only one thing to say--which he said over and over again, but in many different ways. He never sat down to write a book or an article from start to finish, nor did he have the time. Instead, when he spoke to others, from personal associates or friends to audiences of hundreds, he called his lengthy bouts of verbal exposition "thinking out loud sessions." Thus, with his desire to have what he spoke about transcribed, he had more than the purpose of mere documentation in mind.

Assistants, students or admirers as far away as England or Malaysia would carefully listen to audio or video tapes, painstakingly transcribe his talks and offer them as additions to his extensive collection. Often Bucky would choose paragraphs from his manuscript files, those with the best variants on an idea. Then he'd have somebody assist him in pasting new manuscripts together. To each he would add his expansive pockets of marginalia and it would be typed into the next draft of a piece which was eventually meant for publication. He kept every version of an item, sometimes numbering in the dozens, from the paste-ups to the final drafts, in its own file. These files, with a thickness ranging from a fraction of an inch to a few feet, are all named and placed in chronological order.

To Bucky, even the galleys for a finished book would sometimes be seen and treated as just another draft. Everything was in the state of perpetual revision and expansion. In the thousands of pages that make up the manuscript files, the same ideas are spread out in endless variations in these multiple versions of essays, specially selected letters, transcripts, articles and books. Although Bucky was a prolific author, publishing more than 20 books and hundreds of articles in his lifetime, it is estimated that more than two thirds of the entire manuscript collection has never been published. But thanks to many others who helped him through the years, everything from these thinking out loud sessions is still intact and in one place.

In the 1960s until 1983, great efforts were undertaken by many of Bucky's students and staff from the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and later in Philadelphia at the University City Science Center. During his time at SIU a large number of people including Dale Klaus, Naomi Schwartz and Constance Abernathy,worked with him to set up and organize portions of the archives such as the photo files or set up cross-reference cards or index files for his ideas.

In his later years in Philadelphia, Bucky enlisted the professional assistance of archivist Ann Mintz to reconcile, add to and update his immense genealogy files, and had her undertake other major projects in the archives. Medard Gabel, who with Fuller initiated his World Game, also worked extensively in the archives, updated the Dymaxion Index and wrote with Robert Kahn a broad description of its organization and its contents in 1976. Shirley Sharkey, Bucky's Executive Secretary for well over a decade knew more about where he was going and what he was doing during those very busy years than anybody and added yet another layer of organization to the vastly expanding collection.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya, Bucky's adjuvant on two of his last books, "Critical Path" and the posthumously published "Cosmography" also spent many years on his staff and as his assistant. He also carved the first niche for Bucky's work on the Internet back in 1990 with The FIX: Fuller Information Exchange BBS. Amy Edmondson, John Warren, Christopher Kitrick and Robert Grip worked closely with the application and final developments of geodesics and synergetics in Bucky's final years.

During his lengthy collaboration with Bucky on his magnum opus, "Synergetics" and "Synergetics II", in the 1960s and 70s, Ed Applewhite typed and compiled 22,000 5 x 8 cards of his ideas drawn from two trunkfuls of original notes on synergetics going back to the early 40s various transcripts tape recordings, unpublished papers, letters and manuscripts. With Applewhite's association with Bucky reaching back to his Wichita House days, there may be no one better acquainted with his entire corpus of work, and more intimately involved with its organization and its disposition for the future. His efforts have always been to surround some of Bucky's work with the tools "for students and critics to make their own assessments of his work and thus reinforce the achievements with the weight of discriminating examination."

Through the years, and to Applewhite's credit, a very rich and discreet collection of the entire evolution of synergetics and collateral activities and ideas by others around the world is beginning to comprise its own section of the archives. In addition, he published the 5 x 8 cards themselves in a 4-volume Synergetics Dictionary which, like a HyperCard stack, exhaustively cross-references what Bucky had to say about everything from Christmas to wind power, taste buds to tetrahedrons. This dictionary, which includes citations to sources published and unpublished, will someday become another doorway into Bucky's archives as well as his ideas.

If Bucky's entire philosophy could be brought down to one single word or phrase, synergy may be the one, the behavior of the whole systems unpredicted by the behaviors of any of their parts--whole systems which are greater than the sum of their parts. During his lifetime Bucky seemed to have a knack for eliciting enthusiastic and tireless hours of dedication to almost all of his endeavors by literally hundreds of students, staff, family, friends and in some cases strangers--and always without many resources. The artifact of Bucky's lifetime experiment as Guinea Pig B was built this way as well, with the efforts of hundreds, possibly thousands in service to an idea that seemed to make a lot of sense. It is an artifact that may have more relevance for future generations than anyone, even Bucky himself would have thought.


Although the tactile pleasures of sorting through the physical artifacts of Bucky's life brings a dimension all its own to the discovery of who he was and who he shared his life with, almost the same could be done with the same body of materials available on a computer screen-from drawings, letters and manuscripts to "ephemerabilia," at the touch of a fingertip. In hundreds of letters spanning well over half a century, the love story of Bucky and Anne is told. Anne's letters carry a lilting youthful quality that punctuates even the most fatuous groupings of correspondence to be found in the Chronofile boxes. Her handwriting is like a beautiful victorian stenciled wallpaper and her ardent and boundless devotion gives life to the saying that behind every great man is a great woman. It is no wonder he personally deemed his most famous geodesic dome, at the 1967 Montreal Exposition, his "Taj Majal to Anne" in honor of their 50th anniversary.

The letters of sculptor Isamu Noguchi, Bucky's lifelong friend, spann decades and flavor the correspondence files with Asian subtlety, each page an artwork in and of itself, all on sheer white rice paper written with a brown fountain pen, always poignant, always aesthetically disarming. And how affecting it is to see in a letter to his mother bound into the 1928 Chronofile volume, Fuller's youthful discovery of his Great Aunt Margaret Fuller's thought and its parallels to his own as he writes, "I have been reading much by Margaret Fuller lately. I was astonished to find that some things I have been writing myself are about identical to things I find in her writings. I am terribly interested and am astounded fully that I should have grown to this age and never have read anything of her or grandfather Fuller's."

Bucky's relationships with hundreds of people, many who were well-known figures of the 20th century spring to life in the hundreds of volumes of the Chronofile. His friendships with Romany Marie, Margaret Mead, Indira Ghandi, Josef and Anni Albers, Marshall McLuhan, Christopher Morley and John Cage represent only some of the remarkable correspondence which can be found in that section of the archives alone. Things came in so fast after the 1940s that there was no time left to bind the volumes together and items were instead placed loosely in folders and files, but still kept together in their chronological order. Because they are organized chronologically, it is hard to follow a stream of correspondence from a single person with so many hundreds of others between. For his own purposes, in 1970 Bucky set his office staff to the task of compiling a matrix to log each incoming item as it came in. This matrix included the names of people, nature of correspondence, and the date of each letter which then turned into a series of 5 x 8 typed index cards cross-referencing the Chronofile alphabetically for a 13 year period from 1970 to 1983. This helps for the last years but doesn't make a dent in the first 75 years of Chronofile letters.

Even though Fuller's 20-volume Dymaxion Index and a number of other card files comprise the key to to such a large body of material, an estimate that these provide indexes to only about 25% of the entire collection is not too far off the mark. Going through so much material to find what one is looking for is sometimes impossible and often inordinately time-consuming. Bucky's archives has captivated, frustrated and confounded the few researchers who have spent lengthy periods of time in it, from Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman for their American Masters biography on Bucky to J. Baldwin who just completed his photographically rich book about Bucky's artifacts to Yunn Chii Wong, who spent one full year in the archives on a daily basis for his dissertation on the evolution of Fuller's geodesics and shelter ideas to Joachim Krausse who has returned for a month at a time through the past couple years preparing for a seminal exhibit on Fuller's work to debut in Zurich in 1997.

The lament by these researchers is that there is just too much stuff; there is just not enough time. Even in the years I have spent in the archives with these researchers and joining the lineage that began in Bucky's lifetime with the progressive task of helping to organize this unique body of materials, I know we have only touched the tip of the iceberg. The next big leap would be to computerize large portions of the collection. Although there are redundancies everywhere, by beginning with the Dymaxion Index and enlisting the planning efforts of many who helped to build or organize the collection in the first place, such a thing could be done. How fitting for a man who felt technology was part and parcel of nature--a natural thing, that computer technology would find a meeting place with his lifetime experiment to take it to the next stage before the year 2000. Although such a daunting task, it seems to be possible with greater ease than anyone may have thought until just the last couple years.


At this very moment, a student from MIT is walking around with a computer headset and wired body almost every minute of his waking day to document with videocam and a direct computer feed everywhere he goes and everything he sees--well, almost everything. Although I haven't seen it yet, anyone can bring up his daily video feed through the World Wide Web. It reminds me of Bucky's approach with his lifetime experiment. He never stopped looking outward as he looked in. He documented the changing world of the 20th century as well as the world of his life.

One of Bucky's last messages was that anyone could do what he did--find something that needs to be done that nobody is attending to. There is certainly enough of that out there for everyone. He said integrity was the one thing that had helped him remain on track, to continue his lifetime mission. In his mind, all important things get done by individuals with initiative.

I will never forget when I saw him speak in those last few months of his life, having only been introduced to his work a couple years before. After a grueling, almost non-stop six-hour lecture about a little bit of everything, his youthful audience of a few hundred people stood up vigorously and gave him a standing ovation that lasted many minutes, applauding his decades of service to the future and his call for us to take our own initiatives --to go out and look for what needed to be done. When the room was finally quiet he looked up at us, held out his arms and said, "I wish you could see yourselves from where I am standing now."

Bucky was one of the few mentors of this century, and he took the idea of demonstrating what you are talking about very seriously. He said if you can't make a model of it, don't talk about it. And somehow he managed to leave an artifact, a "model" of his life in addition to everything else he did. Some can call it ego to spend so much time leaving one's own life bared for all to see--thinking there is meaning in every ounce of minutiae, but I think it was instead a gesture coming from Bucky's sense of personal responsibility. Everything he did was with future generations in mind. With this model he says to us, "see what I did, see what worked and what didn't--use what you can as an example, good or bad."

Bucky did not hold anything back while telling the story that is told in the intellectual artifact that he left and hoped someday that anyone who wanted would have access. Although this is not possible in its physical state of today and it would be a crime to lose all that was built up in a few short years of unlimited rifling, those of us who have been inside his archives hope that day will not be too far away. And, as Bucky would have wanted it, someday it will belong, unconditionally, to everyone.