After more than 30 years with Fermilab, Adrienne Kolb is retiring from her position as lab archivist and historian. During that time, Kolb has tirelessly documented and promoted Fermilab’s history, making the lab’s many fascinating stories available to its staff, its users, outside researchers and the public.
“I feel very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people who have contributed to Fermilab’s history, from members of the farm families to Nobel Prize winners,” Kolb said.
Before joining the lab, Kolb earned her B.A. in history from the University of New Orleans and became interested in the history of 20th-century physics when she married Rocky Kolb, who went on to become one of the world’s leading astrophysicists. She held positions in the University of Texas Faculty Club, the Caltech Development Office and the Los Alamos County Historical Museum before she and her family came to Fermilab so Rocky could start the Astrophysics Group. On Nov. 14, 1983, Kolb joined the Fermilab History and Archives Project, which was part of the Director’s Office at the time. Robert Wilson, the lab’s first director, had started the Archives in 1972 and the History Project in 1976.
Kolb initially assisted Lab Archivist and Historian Lillian Hoddeson but later became the lab’s sole archivist and historian. Always on the lookout for records and artifacts important to the history of the lab, she greatly expanded the collections and worked with Hoddeson to conduct numerous oral history interviews with lab staff and other prominent people in the field of particle physics. She coordinated the creation of the Archives House in the Fermilab Village at 18 Neuqua in 1994, oversaw the transfer of records from the special collections of the canceled Superconducting Super Collider to the Fermilab Archives and chaired the Site History Committee, which began organizing the annual Farmers Picnic in 1998, among many other accomplishments.
Kolb also published numerous articles on the history of Fermilab and the Superconducting Super Collider, including one co-authored with Robert Wilson. In 2008 she, Lillian Hoddeson and Catherine Westfall co-authored the book Fermilab: Physics, the Frontier and Megascience, a history of Fermilab from its conception to the mid-1990s.
“My work at Fermilab has opened my horizons,” Kolb said. “When you read through Wilson and Lederman’s writings, you want to understand the complicated times they were dealing with. You want to tell that exciting story about the scientific endeavor, about the possibilities of scientific collaboration and exploration.”
She has also enjoyed being a part of the Fermilab community, the time she has spent at the lab and its peaceful, prairie land surroundings.
“It’s such a relief to me when I get on site because it’s a different world — rather tranquil and beautiful, no matter the season,” she said.
We invite everyone to join the staff of the Information Resources Department in celebrating Adrienne’s contributions to the lab at her retirement party on Thursday, June 25, in the second-floor art gallery from 2-4 p.m.
—Valerie Higgins, lab archivist and historian