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Introduction to the Shulgin Archiving Issue of Erowid Extracts
by Earth & Fire Erowid
Feb 2016
Citation:   Erowid E. Erowid F. "Introduction to the Shulgin Archiving Issue". Erowid Extracts. Feb 2016;28:2. Online edition: Erowid.org/culture/characters/shulgin_alexander_shulgin_alexander_article3.shtml
Ann & Sasha Shulgin ca. 1995
Photo by Various
We probably don't need to tell Erowid readers how influential Alexander and Ann Shulgin have been to the field of psychoactive drugs, or to Erowid itself. Sasha's innovative melding of novel synthetic chemistry and psychopharmacology made him an academic visionary. Sasha and Ann's crossing of cultural boundaries--through engagement with academics, enthusiasts, businesspeople, and law enforcement--set them apart. Their work in support of unapproved psychedelic psychotherapy changed the course of history and continues to improve innumerable lives.

As a duo, they've inspired us and many others. The publication of their books PiHKAL and TiHKAL, in which they paired a deeply personal love story with technical chemistry and pharmacology, demonstrated their vision and brought them to the attention of the wider world.

While their books are justifiably well known, there is also a significant collection of their papers, photos, and unpublished writings that can be of enormous benefit to the world. This issue of Erowid Extracts is therefore devoted to recent archiving efforts and stories from Team Shulgin.

Sasha first showed us his handwritten pharmacology notebooks in 1999, and we were appropriately awed. Of course, we immediately asked if we could scan them for posterity. Sasha shook his head and said that they contained too much private information that might put others at risk. He did generously allow us to photograph and scan other documents from his collection. He also repeatedly provided permission for us to archive and publish any factual information he had collected (as long as it had been filtered for privacy). Ann and Sasha had already given the second halves of PiHKAL and TiHKAL to the online world: they have been available on the Erowid website for nearly twenty years now.

As time passed, we continued to engage the Shulgins about ways to mitigate privacy concerns, and they gradually warmed to the idea. Lab notebook scanning commenced in late 2007 with Tania and Greg Manning's assistance, and financial support from John Gilmore.

"The preservation of historical works is integral to societal evolution towards more sophisticated and balanced relationships with psychoactives."
-- Erowid Center
A lot of archiving work has been accomplished during the last eight years, with help from more than a dozen people. Many projects are underway, and there's much more to come.

Digitizing and cataloging the Shulgins' notebooks and other materials offer insights into their meticulous note taking, their research group, their impact on scientific literature, and the broader historical context for their courageous, visionary partnership.

When Sasha began investigating psychedelic and empathogenic compounds in the 1960s, the bureaucratic hurdles were significantly lower. As his work progressed, there was a steady march towards more governmental control. Additional research restrictions were added, and some of his most interesting creations were banned as Schedule I drugs (with "no acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse" according to the DEA). Despite this designation, the Shulgins and their research group continued exploring new compounds and documenting their investigations. The archiving process is revealing more personalized accounts, and more detail from these unpublished works.

Simultaneously, Transform Press, owned by Wendy Tucker (Ann Shulgin's daughter), is now working on multiple books based on Sasha's lectures, as well as new editions of PiHKAL and TiHKAL.

After receiving a grant of $5,425 (USD) towards our Shulgin Collection Archiving Project from Island Healing in January 2015, we pledged an additional $8,276 to the project from Erowid Center's general budget. In April 2015, Erowid Center became the payroll processor for several part-time members of Team Shulgin who are sifting, cataloging, scanning, and transcribing. Current funding for this project will be exhausted in early 2016, and we are seeking new grants to sustain and expand this work.

2015 was an extremely important year for continuing the Shulgins' legacy. Our heartfelt thanks to Erowid contributors, Team Shulgin, Transform Press, and everyone engaged in this ongoing effort.

Photo Credits #
  1. Photo from the Shulgin Archive.
Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Feb 2016 - published in Erowid Extracts.
  • v1.1 - Aug 2016 - Erowid - Published on Erowid.org.