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Jet Propulsion Laboratory Archives: Historical Photo of the Month

Guide for accessing all types of materials in the JPL Archives.

Access Previous Historical Photos of the Month

Each below photo will link to the full size image on Pub-Lib. In the upper right hand corner, click on the three dots, then click on Details to see the full caption of each image. 

For more previous photos, please click here

P-124B

16 April is National Librarian Day! The library has always been an important part of JPL’s research culture, and has been a significant part of the Lab since at least the 1950s. These photos, taken 27 October 1952, show one of the early iterations of the JPL Library. Because of Dr. Pickering’s insistence on JPL remaining research-driven and university-like, the library was instituted as a hub of learning. According to the January 1953 edition of Lab-Oratory, “The Library is staffed by a Librarian [Betty Mears] and 5 assistants. It is also interesting to note that library circulation has increased in proportion to the growth of JPL. The Library now contains an estimated total of 33,000 volumes, of which about 1400 textbooks. A total of 154 periodicals are subscribed to.”

Now taking form of The HUB in Building 111, the JPL Library is an integral function of the Lab. Though the physical card catalogue is gone, and the stacks look different, the library’s walls still hold all of the informational treasures as it has throughout its tenure, and remains an integral part of JPL culture. As of 2021, the Library is staffed by six information science specialists and three information science technicians. More than 90% of the library materials are digital. The Library now provide access to more than 12,000 electronic journals and 50,000 electronic books. In 2020, more than 330,000 articles and 60,000 book chapters were downloaded.

Be sure to thank your JPL Librarians! CL#21-0732

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in these photos, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

Lab-Oratory article (January 1953): https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-770036/LabO_1953.pdf (page 7)

Historical Photo of the Month

June 2021

P-958

One major piece of JPL that we’ve all been missing during this work from home period is our friendly JPL deer! Though they stop traffic in the parking lot and run across the streets on Lab, the appearance of the deer happily signifies to the Lab that it’s finally springtime. 

The deer have been inhabiting the Lab throughout its history, this photo being taken 9 January 1958. Conversely, 63 years later, we’re still enamored by the deer. This drawing was done 21 January 2021 by Data Visualization Developer, Vaishnavi Yathirajam (398I), another of our fellow JPLers missing this time of year on Lab. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

Drawing by Vaishnavi Yathirajam (398I) 

One major piece of JPL that we’ve all been missing during this work from home period is our friendly JPL deer! Though they stop traffic in the parking lot and run across the streets on Lab, the appearance of the deer happily signifies to the Lab that it’s finally springtime. 

The deer have been inhabiting the Lab throughout its history, this photo being taken 9 January 1958. Conversely, 63 years later, we’re still enamored by the deer. This drawing was done 21 January 2021 by Data Visualization Developer, Vaishnavi Yathirajam (398I), another of our fellow JPLers missing this time of year on Lab. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

May 2021

P-788B 

140 years ago, on 11 May 1881, JPL founder, Dr. Theodore von Kármán, was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. Prolific mathematician, physicist, and aerospace engineer, von Kármán is responsible for multiple key advancements in aerodynamics, most notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization. 

In 1930, after pursuing multiple engineering and aeronautics degrees and positions throughout Europe, he accepted the directorship of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT). It was here that he, along with Frank Malina and Jack Parsons, founded Aerojet to manufacture JATO rocket motors. After World War II initiated an increase in militaristic interest in rocket research, von Karman was repeatedly consulted, and he and his partners at GALCIT went on to found the home of the great work that you all do today, JPL! 

At age 81, von Kármán became the first recipient of the National Medal of Science from the Kennedy Administration, recognizing him for his immense contributions to engineering and aerospace. The above image, taken 30 March 1957, represents one of von Kármán’s JPL portraits, taken in his office. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

Contact information for the JPL Archives:

If you have questions about historical photos, or about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives.