Los Alamos History Museum Reopens

Los Alamos History Museum Reopens

The ribbon cutting. Photo courtesy of the Los Alamos History Museum.

After being closed more than a year for renovation, the Los Alamos History Museum celebrated its grand reopening on December 30, 2016. The reopening event at Fuller Lodge included remarks by guest speaker Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson of President Harry Truman. The ceremony was covered by the Albuquerque Journal,  the Los Alamos Monitor, and the Los Alamos Daily Post.

Daniel shared memories of his grandfather and praised the Museum for its approach to Los Alamos's often-contested history. "You tell the story with pride, but also with empathy for the other side," Daniel said. "That's invaluable."

The exhibits trace Los Alamos's history from the Ancestral Puebloans to the Manhattan Project to today. In the words of Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Heather McClenahan, the Museum tells the "people stories" of Los Alamos. Several remarkable artifacts are now on display, including a pitcher designed by renowned Native American potter Maria Martinez. Other highlights include the original gate from Dorothy McKibbin's office at 109 East Palace Avenue in Santa Fe and a wedding dress that Eleanor Bartlett created from a parachute sent to her by her fiancé, Albert, during his preparations for the Trinity Test.

The Museum incorporates numerous oral histories from Manhattan Project participants from AHF's "Voices of the Manhattan Project" collection. Many are first-hand accounts of life in the "Secret City." In a Reflections Gallery, Manhattan Project veterans recall the Trinity Test and discuss their reactions to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Visitors are asked to share their opinions on the responsibility of scientists for how their discoveries are used.

A new activity that takes place throughout the Museum is "Bences' Challenge," a scavenger hunt based on the life of Bences Gonzales. The Gonzales family were homesteaders on the Pajarito Plateau long before the Manhattan Project. Bences Gonzales worked for the Los Alamos Ranch School and the Manhattan Project and became an important civic leader following World War II. "Bences' Challenge" recognizes the important roles of Hispanos in Los Alamos's history and should engage visitors of all ages.

The new Harold Agnew Cold War Gallery in the historic Hans Bethe House, donated by philanthropists Clay and Dorothy Perkins, interprets Los Alamos's history during the Cold War. The Gallery explores the evolution of the Los Alamos community after World War II and the growth of Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

Highlights include a "Nobel Nook" recognizing the 23 Nobel Prize winners connected with the Manhattan Project or Los Alamos National Laboratory and an electronic display by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto depicting the more than 2,000 nuclear explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998. A sign notes that Elsie McMillan and Lois Bradbury, the wives of two leading Manhattan Project scientists, saw the flash of light from the Trinity Test through the house's windows on July 16, 1945. You can listen to Elsie McMillan recount that dramatic moment here.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation congratulates the Los Alamos Historical Museum. The new exhibits will be invaluable to visitors to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. You can watch video from the reopening ceremony here and photos of the celebration here.