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The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection

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Catalog Data

Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
29 videotapes (Reference copies). 75 digital .wmv files and .rm files (Reference copies).
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Trinity Test Site (N.M.)
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Nagasaki (Japan)
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology. Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.
Descriptive Entry:
Stanley Goldberg, consulting historian for the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH), recorded eighteen video sessions with fifty-five participants involved in the engineering, physics, and culmination of the Manhattan Project. Goldberg examined the research and technologies necessary to realize the uranium and plutonium bombs. He supplemented interviews with visual documentation of the industrial plants that refined and separated the isotopes, and of the machinery that delivered and dropped the bombs. Interviewees explained the other steps of designing, building, testing and detonating an atomic bomb. Discussions with participants also elicited a social history of the Project as recalled by various men and women responsible for different duties in different locales. Between January 1987 and June 1990 the sessions were recorded on-site or in-studio in Hanford, Washington; Boston, Massachusetts; Oak Ridge and Louisville, Tennessee; Alamogordo and Los Alamos, New Mexico; Washington, D.C.; and Suitland, Maryland. The sessions are divided into five series: Hanford, Oak Ridge, Cambridge, Los Alamos, and Alberta. This collection consists of eighteen interview sessions, separated into five series, totaling approximately 47:00 hours of recordings, and 1188 pages of transcript. Please note that Sessions 14 and 15 in Series Four are comprised of dual sets of tape from two cameras positioned at different angles.
Historical Note:
The United States government began underwriting investigations of the feasibility of atomic weapons in October 1941. Within a year, promising research at several universities, particularly at the Metallurgical Laboratory of the University of Chicago, showed that it was possible to produce atomic bombs based on the chain-reacting fission of uranium 235 isotope or of plutonium. This led to the reorganization of the Manhattan District, or "Project," of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make these bombs a reality. Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves directed and coordinated the Project from 1942 to 1945, spending 2.3 billion dollars on nuclear reactors and chemical separation plants at Hanford, Washington, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and on the weapon research and design laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The first plutonium bomb was successfully detonated at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. The B-29 bomber Enola Gay exploded the first uranium bomb, "Little Boy," over Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945; the B-29 Bock's Car exploded the second plutonium bomb, "Fat Man," over Nagasaki, Japan, two days later.
World War, 1939-1945  Search this
Atomic bomb  Search this
Women -- History  Search this
Science -- History  Search this
Technology -- History  Search this
Military history  Search this
Physics  Search this
Oral history  Search this
Interviews  Search this
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
Record Unit 9531
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The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
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Smithsonian Institution Archives