History doesn’t stop

Valerie Higgins
Adrienne Kolb

Valerie Higgins and Adrienne Kolb, archivists and historians, wrote this column.

The Fermilab History and Archives Project marches forward as we ponder the effects of national and global events on our daily priorities. Every day we are aware of Fermilab’s growing and ongoing history and the imperative of preserving our holdings. In observance of the Society of American Archivists’ American Archives Month in October 2013, Illinois archivists are encouraging the preservation of audio-visual records in all formats to keep them accessible and protect their content, so we are making plans to save Fermilab’s rich audio-visual documentation, back to its beginnings. Audio-visual materials can often be more effective than written documents in bringing history to life, which makes them an essential part of the documentation of any institution.

Capturing the imagery and significance of Fermilab, both its science and its site, has been part of the lab’s essence since its origins in 1967. Photographs, film, sound and video recordings, artwork, and now digital media have all played an important role in presenting Fermilab to the world. In the Fermilab History and Archives Project we strive to organize, preserve and make accessible the lab’s records for the future. Rapid technological changes present us with challenges and new opportunities as we seek to manage these collections. Such changes mean that old formats quickly become obsolete, and we are in the midst of ensuring the preservation of our existing holdings by converting them to current, stable formats. Currently we are converting film and video from the early days of Fermilab, some of which was once stored at Argonne National Laboratory, and digitizing some of our holdings to make them accessible online.

The Fermilab History and Archives Project’s extensive audio-visual holdings include hundreds of cassette tapes of interviews with Fermilab staff, film and video recordings of early talks at Fermilab, and many other materials. We constantly add to the collections by recording new interviews and collecting additional materials. For instance, we have recently acquired some of Fermilab artist-in-residence and graphic designer Angela Gonzales’ artwork, which documents Fermilab events and accomplishments in a unique way.

Please contact us if you have any materials that you think are of historical value so we can assess them.