Fermilab History and Archives Project

About the History and Archives Project

The History of Accelerators and Particle Physics Collection contains multi-media records of the high-energy physics laboratories of the world and their experiments. Research materials on the history of Fermilab are part of these holdings.

The Milton G. White History of Accelerators Room, adjacent to the Fermilab Library on the 3rd floor of Wilson Hall, is a research reading room where several of the collections are located. The History and Archives House is located at 18 Neuqua Street in the Fermilab Village.

The historical collection from the archives of the Superconducting Super Collider was accessioned into the Fermilab Archives in 1995. A limited amount of the collection has been processed and is available for research. Please contact the Archivist for assistance.

For research assistance please contact the Archivist at 630-840-2543 (WH3SE) or 630-840-5177 (History & Archives House) or 630-840-2623 (FAX). You may also submit an Archives Request online or pick up a form outside the Reading Room.

Copying facilities for documents and photographs are conveniently located. Assistance with collections of sound and visual recordings is available upon request.

Origins of the History and Archives Project


A 100-year-old farm on the NAL site will be the setting for a historical museum being established by the laboratory.

Karyl Louwenaar

Among NAL's 1969 summer employees was Miss Karyl Louwenaar, who was assigned to a research project on the history of the NAL site and its former residents.

An alumna of Wheaton College, Miss Louwenaar returned to her doctoral studies at the Eastman School of Music, The University of Rochester, N.Y., in September. She is a native of the Grand Rapids, Mich., area.

The Leon Feldott farm on Batavia Road has been approved as the site of the museum, which will contain exhibits showing what life was like in the area before the NAL. Donald R. Getz, Assistant Director of NAL, says he hopes the museum will be open in the fall.

The farm house, barn and smaller buildings will house old farm furnishings, tools, and machinery, as well as an Indian arrowhead collection, according to Karyl Louwenaar, summertime administrative assistant for the Public Information Office. Miss Louwenaar did a historical study on the site area last summer and returned this year to make plans for the museum.

According to Ivan Alten of DUSAF, who has had experience in restoring old homes In the east, the original part of the house dates from about 1855 or 1860. It is an interesting example of Greek Revival architecture, though a later addition represents the Victorian Revival period, as evidenced by the home's two front porches.

Although funds would not be available for a complete restoration of the house, some will be done, and the attempt will be made to decorate it in as authentic a way as possible. Angela Gonzales, NAL artist, is a consultant for the decorating.

Source: The Village Crier, September 1969


"The older you get, the more interested you are in history." Appropriately, the speaker was William Brobeck, a history-maker in accelerator engineering. He shared 40 years of experience here recently in a quarterly engineering lecture series.

Tapes were made of Brobeck's remarks, for another project, by a new Fermilab History Committee. Finding Fermilab's roots-and particle accelerator origins--is the committee's mission as the laboratory approaches its 10th birthday.

R. Carrigan, W. Brobeck, D. Jovanovic, talk accelerators
R. Carrigan, W. Brobeck, D. Jovanovic, talk accelerators

Bob Long tapes history project
Bob Long tapes history project

An offshoot of a library committee, the unit was born at a luncheon meeting held in January. Members are: Dr. Robert R. Wilson, laboratory director, chairman; Dr. Drasko Jovanovic, deputy department head-research; Dr. Francis Cole, accelerator division (advanced projects); Dr. Richard Carrigan, assistant department head-research; Dr. Lee Teng, associate department head for advanced projects-accelerator division; and Roger Thompson, head of technical information-administrative division.

Collection materials are expected to include experimenters' papers, cassette/video tape interviews, books, photographs and equipment from Fermilab experiments.

A room in the library is being prepared to house the collection. History committee efforts will be coordinated with the American Institute of Physics' History of Physics Center, New York City, to avoid duplication. Stephen Weart and Joan Warnow, director and assistant director of the center, met here recently with history committee members to discuss the project.

During Brobeck's visit, he gave several lectures and a luncheon interview. These were taped and will launch lab collection materials. The speaker, president of Brobeck and Associates, a Berkeley Calif., consulting firm, served as assistant director and chief engineer at the University of California-Berkeley Radiation Laboratory from 1937 to 1957.

Recorded interviews and/or transcripts will be added as they become available.

William Brobeck
William Brobeck

Brobeck recalled that public interest in physics and science was sparked by the atom bomb. Radar and microwave technology also came out of World War II, Brobeck said, offering new vistas that engineers realized they didn't know about.

Many engineering jobs were created and physicists became engineers as big science projects were undertaken in the post-war 40's.

Motivation and functions provide the basic differences between scientists and engineers, Brobeck said. Scientists are inspired by curiosity and the search for timeless truths; engineers want to build something that accomplishes a task, makes something happen, the speaker said.

While scientists seek to acquire and organize knowledge, the engineer-researcher seeks knowledge that gets a job done, Brobeck said.

Information is the scientist's end-product, while processes and structures are what the engineers produce.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 9 No. 18, April 14, 1977


Lillian Hoddeson
L. Hoddeson, FNAL archivist

History. Every person, industry or organization has one. And documents, tapes, recordings and other memorabilia chronicling Fermilab's roots are now being compiled.

"I cannot overemphasize how important employee cooperation will be to the project," said resident archivist Lillian Hoddeson.

She invited employee contributions in a May 5, 1978 letter to about 230 long-time employees. Others are also welcome to contribute, she said. "It is important that we make serious attempts to preserve information now, while the sources are maximally available," she said.

Hoddeson began collecting Fermilab historical artifacts in January, 1978. She was commissioned by Director Robert R. Wilson and the Fermilab History Committee to work on a quarter-time basis. Holder of a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Columbia University, the historian commutes from the University of Illinois-Champaign where she is a visiting scientist in history in the University's Physics Department.

Notebooks, reports, slides, photos, memos, historical articles/books and unpublished talks regarding Fermilab and history of other accelerators is sought.

Any additional materials documenting employee roles at Fermilab are welcome.

Hoddeson says, "You might consider dictating information on cassette tape." She suggests, "First-person accounts of events that you participated in or witnessed personally, are particularly interesting for historians." She added that a limited number of personal interviews will be taped for inclusion in the collection.

The archivist works out of the "History of Accelerators" room on the 3rd floor of Wilson Hall. "Interviewing current and former Fermilab people has been very interesting and productive," she says. She arranges special taped interviews with physics pioneers visiting the Laboratory in a seminar series sponsored by the History Committee.

Hoddeson may be contacted in the History Room at (630) 840-2543.

Source: FermiNews Vol. 1 No. 3, May 25, 1978

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