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COLLECTION Identifier: HUM 315

Helen L. Brooks collection relating to the Harvard University Underwater Sound Laboratory and the Harvard University Division of Engineering and Applied Physics Wives Committee

Overview

Helen Lathrop Brooks (1917- ) worked as an editorial secretary at the Harvard University Underwater Sound Laboratory from March 1942 to July 1945. In 1958, Brooks founded and chaired the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics Wives Committee, which served as a social organization for the department's faculty members and their wives until 1977, when the group formally disbanded. The collection contains photographs of the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory, as well as employee rosters and copies of its newsletter. Correspondence, invitations and flyers, summaries of events, and expense summaries document the activities of the Division of Engineering and Applied Wives Committee, including materials related to reunions in 1960, 1970, and 1993. These files give insight into Harvard’s working environment and social culture for men and women during the mid-to-late twentieth century.

Dates

  • 1941-1993

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

The Helen L. Brooks collection relating to the Harvard University Underwater Sound Laboratory and the Harvard University Division of Engineering and Applied Physics Wives Committee is open for research with the following exceptions: University records are closed to research for 50 years from the date of creation. Personnel records are closed for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted throughout the finding aid. Please see reference staff for details.

Extent

.45 cubic feet (1 document box, 1 flat box)
This collection contains photographs, staff rosters, correspondence, newsletters, and invitations from the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory and Harvard’s Division of Engineering and Applied Physics’ Wives Committee, compiled by Helen Brooks. The Underwater Sound Laboratory files include photographs of the lab’s exterior and interior, copies of the Lab Echo newsletter, and planning documents related to staff reunions in 1960, 1970, and 1993, which focused on the retirement of former director Ted Hunt. These files give insight into Harvard’s working environment and social culture for men and women during the mid-to-late twentieth century. Items from the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics’ Wives Committee, chaired by Helen Brooks, include correspondence, invitations, and expense summaries, all of which document the social activities organized by female committee members from the late 1950s through the early 1980s.

Biographical note on Helen Brooks

Helen Lathrop Brooks (1917- ) was born on August 22, 1917 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Brooks graduated with a degree in history from Smith College in 1939, and then went on to receive secretarial training at the Erksine School in Boston. She was a secretary at Harvard Law School from 1940 to 1942, then worked as an editorial secretary at the Harvard University Underwater Sound Laboratory from March 1942 to July 1945. In addition to her secretarial work, Brooks was also responsible for the collection and preparation of the Lab’s Weekly Organization Report of the Sonar Division, which was a scientific report on all personnel in the lab. In 1958, Brooks founded and chaired the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics Wives Committee, which served as a social organization for the department faculty members and their wives until 1977.
Historical note on the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory The Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory, or HUSL, was founded in June 1941 under the umbrella of the federal government’s National Defense Research Committee/Office of Scientific Research and Development. HUSL was located on Harvard's campus in Hemenway Gymnasium; eventually, the laboratory occupied Gannett House, and an addition was built onto the main building, extending towards Austin Hall. The lab was directed by Harvard Professor Frederick V. Hunt, and was responsible for many important contributions to undersea warfare; specifically, it was established to improve existing equipment for sonar and the detection of underwater sound, and to design new equipment. The laboratory's advancements helped to develop acoustic target-seeking torpedoes and more efficient sonar systems for the United States Navy in World War II; these technologies are still used today. During the height of the war, the staff expanded to 450 employees. The laboratory officially closed on January 31, 1946.
Historical note on the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics Wives Committee The Division of Engineering and Applied Physics (DEAP) Wives Committee was formed by Helen Brooks in 1958, after her husband Harvey Brooks became dean of the Division in the fall of 1957. The committee organized many well-attended social events, such as teas and morning coffees, dinners, luncheons, potlucks, holiday parties, sherry and cocktail parties, garden parties, and wine and cheese parties, which were intended to provide opportunities for faculty members and their wives to socialize. The committee existed until 1977, when Helen Brooks retired from her position as committee chair; after Brooks’s retirement, a few sporadic events were held by previous committee members in 1981 and 1982.

Arrangement

This collection was arranged in chronological order by the archivist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated to the Harvard University Archives by Helen Brooks in May 1996; Accession 13305.

Related Materials

The Harvard University Archives also holds:
  1. Papers of Harvey Brooks, 1930s-1980s (inclusive) (HUGFP 128.xx)
  2. Papers of Frederick V. Hunt, 1927-1970 (HUG 4458)
  3. Records of the Underwater Sound Laboratory (UAV 859)

Processing Information

This collection was processed in April 2018 by Olivia Mandica-Hart. Processing included physical re-housing and the creation of this finding aid. Titles were devised by the archivist.
Link to catalog
Title
Brooks, Helen L. Helen L. Brooks collection relating to the Harvard University Underwater Sound Laboratory and the Harvard University Division of Engineering and Applied Physics Wives Committee, 1941-1993: an inventory
Status
in_progress
Author
Harvard University Archives
Date
April 6, 2018
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English
EAD ID
hua18018

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461