Images presented here are derived from the many historical photographic collections housed in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Archives at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The images provide a rich visual history of NIST and its predecessor the National Bureau of Standards (NBS).
When available, descriptions of the images are provided. However, many images include only minimal information. As you browse these images please share additional information on any of them by leaving a comment below the image or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Materials in this collection are from the Fire Research Photographic Collection and the Structural Testing Photographic Collection. Due to the soaring volume of testing in 1909, the equipment and staff (53 engineers, chemists and assistants) of the structural materials laboratories of the Geological Survey were transferred to the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) on July 1, 1910. Well before this augmentation of the Bureau, its test program had already crowded into the last of the laboratories available at the Bureau. Planning expansion of both the Bureau's work in structural materials and that of the former Geological Survey group, Dr. Samuel W. Stratton asked Congress for new mammoth testing machines and a special building to house them. The funds were approved and a 1-million-pound crushing machine for compression tests of brick, stone, cement, and concretes; another machine with a 230,000-pound capacity; a 100,000-pound universal (compression and tension) machine; and a specially designed 2,300,000-pound Emery universal testing machine, for breakdown and exhaustion tests of girders and other large structural members. All were built to Bureau specifications. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, pp. 94, 96] Photographs from this effort became the Structural Testing Photographic Collection.
The Fire Research Photographic Collection documents work that began with funds appropriated by Congress in 1913 so that the National Bureau of Standards could study fire resistant building materials. Fires were claiming thousands of lives annually in the U.S., with property losses exceeding $250 million. In a joint undertaking with the National Fire Protection Association and the Underwriters' Laboratories, NBS aimed at a thorough study of the behavior and safety of building materials in various types of construction under all possible fire conditions. The study provided architects, builders, state and city building bureaus, and insurance interests with fundamental engineering data long needed but nowhere available. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, pp. 130-131]
This collection contains images of the National Hydraulics Laboratory at the former National Bureau of Standards Campus (NBS) in Washington, DC. In 1930, Congress authorized the construction of the National Hydraulics 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 Hydraulics 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 Hydraulics 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.