This poster is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
In December 2014, the National Defense Authorization Act included provisions authorizing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park (MAPR), to be jointly managed by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Park Service (NPS), and located at three sites: Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico. On November 10, 2015, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz signed the Memorandum of Agreement between the two agencies defining their roles in creating and managing the park. The agreement included provisions for enhanced public access, management, interpretation, and historic preservation.
This poster, “Preserving U.S. Military Heritage at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park,” details how the operation of MAPR has involved the cooperative work of conservators, architects, engineers, museum and site managers, and other cultural resource professionals to document, conserve, treat, and adaptively reuse sites and features from our military heritage.
In Oak Ridge, the MAPR team has been actively engaged in the enhancement, interpretation, and accessibility of historic facilities. The National Historic Landmark Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge, which served as a proof of concept at scale for irradiation of uranium to create plutonium, is located on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s campus and is included in DOE public tours. Additionally, DOE is working on the adaptive reuse of Building 9731, which served as the Pilot Plant for testing the electromagnetic separation processes used to separate the U-235 needed for the atomic bomb. The historical training areas in Building 9731 will be preserved while adapting portions of the building to serve current training needs. Other historic sites like the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant and historic guard houses have been utilized by MAPR to host interpretive programs.
At the Hanford Site in Washington, after a groundswell of advocacy from the surrounding communities and elected officials, DOE has been able to preserve the B Reactor, the world’s first full scale plutonium production reactor, which was named a National Historic Landmark in 2008. Starting with limited, badged tours for adult U.S. citizens, DOE has been able to establish B Reactor as a public access area, open to families and schools as well as visitors from roughly 90 countries worldwide. At the same time, DOE has begun to preserve the pre-Manhattan Project landscape at Hanford, including rehabilitating a turn-of-the-century bank building from the town of White Bluffs. Three additional pre-World War II structures will also be stabilized and await the results of building evaluations to determine near and long term actions.
In Los Alamos, New Mexico, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has worked cooperatively with the National Park Service to preserve historic sites like the Pond Cabin, which was during the Manhattan Project to support plutonium chemistry research. The Battleship Bunker, a concrete bunker that was used to house monitoring equipment for tests involving high explosives, has prompted a project currently underway that is looking at the makeup of the historic concrete, causes for the deterioration, and how to preserve the property and prevent further damage. There are other LANL properties that have different levels of concrete deterioration or issues, and plans are being developed for treatments.
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park provides opportunities to view the sites that helped the United States end World War II and challenges us to think about how the world has changed with the dawn of the nuclear age.
Eric W. Boyle earned his Ph.D. in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine from the University of California Santa Barbara in 2007. Since 2016, he has been Chief Historian and Federal Preservation Officer for the Department of Energy, and he is currently part of the Joint Park Management Team for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which consists of representatives from DOE and the National Park Service.