This collection of negatives and photographs from tests and events at Fritz Engineering Laboratory consists of over 6500 images, mostly negatives ranging from 35mm film to 5×7” in size. Each item, though sometimes multiple items, is contained in a paper sleeve usually labeled with a project and identifying item number by the Lab. We have assigned numbers to every item as we work through the collection, rehousing them in protective clear plastic archival sleeves, and documenting as much information as we can glean from the images. We have maintained the original order from Lab assigned numbering, and we record all documentation existing on original sleeves.
The collection is mostly negatives of testing done in Fritz Lab. Additionally, there are also a significant number of slides, usually on 35mm film, depicting graphs, tables, and diagrams of testing specimens, results, and expectations. These slides are diff
icult to identify because they are frequently unlabeled with anything more than symbols and variables, often without explanation of what they stand for.
This project has certainly been a challenging one for me. I am not an engineer, so trying to discern what is going on in thousands of pictures of Fritz Civil Engineering Laboratory testing is quite the daunting task. Fortunately, I do not have to look at each negative in a vacuum; together they have built the narrative of the testing taking place. With time, I was able to gain a greater understanding of what was going on, what kinds of tests were being run, and sometimes why those tests were necessary and important.
Building context has been important for this entire project. In order to expand our contextual knowledge base, the Special Collections team took a field trip to Fritz Lab as we were beginning to process the collection. That valuable experience allowed
us to better understand the collections we were processing. Happily, context also serves to make the work far more interesting and engaging.
I have certainly expanded my horizons working on this project, and as I have gotten more comfortable with the material, it has become more interesting as I can really see and understand what is going on. Hopefully the work we have done will be helpful to others in the future, either working on the collection or searching through it.
By Tim Morgan