I’ve been trying to clean out my office on the 5th floor of the library recently, and in this process a number of really interesting things have bubbled up to the surface. Sometimes envelopes and boxes just sort of appear in my mail or even on the floor outside my door without any indication of where they came from or who sent them. Sometimes I immediately take these things down to the Woodson, other times they work their way down to the bottom of a pile and I forget about them for a while. Then I clean up and find them again.
These pictures are like that. I have no idea where they came from and no clear idea of when they were taken. But more importantly, I don’t know what they are. They are, in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, “known unknowns.” What’s fascinating about them is that it’s not the people in them that command your attention, but rather the machinery. What on earth is this stuff? There are many more of them than what I’ve put up here and all of them have equipment as the star of the show. I’ve even had a hard time guessing what discipline these things are being used for or what building they’re in. My best wild guess is that they were taken in the mid to late 1950s.
Out of the whole batch, there’s only one I can even begin to identify. This is the back of Tom Bonner’s head, and so I would guess that the machine he’s sitting at must be some part of the Van de Graaff accelerator.
Any information or speculation would be most welcome.
Update: Lots of good information in the comments, and I also got this great explanation of the first photo from an emailer. Thanks for the help everyone!