The collection is dominated by comprehensive documentation of the work of Milstein, and his research group, from the early 1950s to his death. A significant proportion of the material is in Spanish, reflecting his origins and continuing connexions with Argentina and the wider Spanish-speaking world.
There is a range of biographical material relating to Milstein's life and career including obituaries, curricula vitae and biographical accounts and interviews. His career is patchily documented but there are university certificates, formal papers relating to employment at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and the contents of his office notice board at the time of his death. There is very good coverage of Milstein's awards and honours from 1977 onwards. It includes the Avery-Landsteiner Prize 1979, Robert Koch Medal 1980, Wolf Prize 1980, Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award 1982, Albert Lasker Award 1984, Copley Medal of the Royal Society 1989, Companion of Honour 1995 and of course the Nobel Prize of 1984. There are also the Argentine honours accorded him from the 1980s onwards. Of additional interest are the contents of his two bulky folders of honours declined; in particular Milstein was disinclined to accept honorary degrees.
Laboratory of Molecular Biology material comprises two components. There is a sequence of office appointment diaries covering the period 1993-2002, and Milstein's files on postgraduate and postdoctoral students and visiting researchers. These cover 1970 to 2002 and include many of the researchers from all over the world (especially from Argentina and the Spanish-speaking world) who spent time in Milstein's group. It includes documentation of Georges Kr's research fellowship at the Laboratory.
Research records form the single largest component of the collection, in terms of size comprising over two thirds of the total. Milstein's scientific research is documented from the University of Buenos Aires in the mid 1950s, the Department of Biochemistry in Cambridge and during his brief return to Argentina, to his career at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology up to and well beyond official retirement. It thus spans some fifty years of research in enzymology and molecular biology, and much of the material covers not only the work of Milstein himself but his wider research group. The earlier period up to and including the 1960s is represented in the form of bound notebooks, but the greater part of the material, dating 1970-2002, is the contents of MRC ringbinders kept as laboratory notebooks and thus styled. The research record is highly technical in nature, covering laboratory techniques for the study of antibody behaviour, diversification and the production of monoclonal antibodies, and the notebooks contain much experimental data. Very significant documentation was kept by his longstanding laboratory technician and research officer J.M. Jarvis, but many other researchers and research themes are represented. There is documentation of the administration of research in the form of records of the distribution worldwide of cell line samples from Milstein's laboratory and a little material relating to grant applications. There is also material relating to patents, including correspondence relating to the failure to patent monoclonal antibodies in the mid 1970s.
Lectures and publications material is divided into three components. The first presents drafts for some of Milstein's public and invitation lectures from 1965. He was always in considerable demand as a distinguished molecular biologist, but following the award of the Nobel Prize invitations to lecture increased. Prestigious lectures documented here include the Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Memorial Lecture 1986, the Croonian Lecture of the Royal Society 1989, the Edward K. Dunham Lectures at Harvard Medical School 1992 and the Third Georges Kr Lecture at the Max Planck Institut funobiologie, Freiburg 1999. The second component, drafts and publications, is patchy. While it does not provide comprehensive coverage of Milstein's published output, it is of considerable interest because of the number of apparently unpublished drafts. The third component is photographic slides used for lecture illustration.
Societies and organisations material is not extensive and it is mostly late in date, 1977-2002. Twenty UK, overseas and international bodies, including a number of Argentine institutions, are represented but there is significant material only for the Basel Institute of Immunology (Milstein was on the International Scientific Advisory Board), Celltech Ltd (member of the Science Council), the Fundacin Juan March of Spain and the Royal Society. Records of consultancies and commercial interests form the smallest component of the archive. They cover five commercial concerns with which Milstein was involved relating to the exploitation of antibody research, including Antisoma Ltd (which Milstein served as President of the Science Council 1990-1995), Cambridge Antibody Technology and Sera-Lab. There is also a little material relating to the Laboratory of Molecular Biology's Industrial Liaison Committee.
Milstein's overseas travel and attendance at meetings is documented from 1965 up to his death. His presence was much sought after, particularly as a Nobel Laureate, and especially in South America. Most of the occasions documented are meetings held in the UK and Western Europe, but Milstein's contact with Argentina increased following the fall of the military government in 1983, with visits documented in spring 1984, March 1986, April and December 1987, March and August 1991, March 1992 and March 1994. He also made a number of visits to other Latin American countries and to Spain. He very often travelled with his wife Celia, who sometimes participated as a scientist in her own right.
Milstein's correspondence dates chiefly from the mid-1970s up to 2002, with little documentation for earlier decades. The bulk comprises the contents of Milstein's alphabetical sequence of General' correspondence files. Although there are few extended exchanges, significant correspondents include A. Cambrosio, A.C.G. Cuello, J.C. Howard, A. Karpas and A.J. McMichael, with a sequence of correspondence with various colleagues at the Argentine Fundacion Campomar 1991-2001. There is some further miscellaneous correspondence including letters exchanged with F. Sanger in the late 1950s and early 1960s, correspondence from colleagues and institutions in Argentina, letters relating to ascription of credit for monoclonal antibody W6/32 and correspondence relating to the work of H. Bazin.