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This collection contains images of the National Hydraulic Laboratory at the former National Bureau of Standards Campus (NBS) in Washington, DC. In 1930, Congress authorized the construction of the National Hydraulic Laboratory. The mission of the laboratory was to make determinations of fundamental data useful in hydraulic research and engineering, including laboratory research relating to the behavior and control of river and harbor waters, the study of hydraulic structures and water flow, and the development and testing of hydraulic instruments and accessories.

Federal and state agencies that did not possess the necessary laboratory facilities were able to use the NBS Hydraulic Laboratory to have studies made of structures designed by their engineering staffs. Designs of many structures, such as dams and dry docks, were improved and simplified through tests of small scale models made in the laboratory. Experimental and theoretical research included: the study of the flow reservoirs of bottom currents of sediment-laden water; the intrusion of subsurface sea water at the mouths of rivers; and the physics of plumbing. The laboratory organization also calibrated water current meters or instruments used in the measurement of the quantity of water flowing in rivers and other open channels.

The National Hydraulic Laboratory at the old NBS campus at Connecticut Ave. and Van Ness St. in Washington, was 285 feet long and 60 feet wide for two thirds of its length, and 92 feet wide for the remainder. The building contained two large concrete supply basins. From these, water was pumped through flumes and other experimental apparatus to a concrete measuring basin. From here, the water was returned to the supply basins. Maximum flow of over 100 cubic feet per second was possible in the main flume. The laboratory was designed with great flexibility and adaptability to allow for the simultaneous study of a number of different problems.

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