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The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection

Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Extent:
29 videotapes (Reference copies). 75 digital .wmv files and .rm files (Reference copies).
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Videotapes
Transcripts
Place:
Trinity Test Site (N.M.)
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Nagasaki (Japan)
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Date:
1987-1990
Introduction:
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.
Topic:
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
Genre/Form:
Videotapes
Transcripts
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
Identifier:
Record Unit 9531
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-faru9531

Interviews

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1026

Session 9: December 1, 1987

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1033

At the Audvid Film and Tape Productions studio, Boston, Massachusetts, featured Bainbridge, Hornig, Morrison, and Wilson on preparations for and execution of the Trinity test at Alamogordo, c. 1944-1945, including: working groups at Los Alamos; instrum...

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1048

Transcript, pp. 1-95, of videotape recording, 3 hours.

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1059

Video Recording of Interview: Total Recording Time: 3 hours

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1070

Session 10: December 1, 1987

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1096

At the Audvid Film and Tape Productions studio, featured French, Frisch, Serber, and Wilson on the organization of Los Alamos and the scientific activities there, c. 1943-1945, including: rationale for forming the Laboratory and considerations for site...

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1111

Transcript, pp. 1-79, of videotape recording, 3 hours.

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1122

Video Recording of Interview: Total Recording Time: 3 hours

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1133

Session 11: December 2, 1987

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1158

At the Audvid Film and Tape Productions studios, featured Hornig, Frisch, Smith, and Wilson on the roles of women in both the domestic and scientific life of Los Alamos, c. 1943-1946, including: homemaking facilities and child care arrangements; social...

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1173

Transcript, pp. 1-93, of videotape recording, 3 hours.

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1185

Video Recording of Interview: Total Recording Time: 3 hours

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1196

Session 12: December 2, 1987

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1221

At the Audvid Film and Tape Productions studios, featured Feld, Smith, Serber, and Morrison on the design and fabrication of a viable implosion system for the plutonium bomb, c. 1944-1945, including: metallurgical experiments to determine characteristi...

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1236

Transcript, pp. 1-67, of videotape recording, 2 hours.

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1247

Video Recording of Interview: Total Recording Time: 2 hours

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 3: Cambridge / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1258

Los Alamos

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Note:
Interviewees in this collection also contributed to the atomic bomb design and testing program in New Mexico. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist from the University of California at Berkeley charged with supervising this part of the Manhattan Project, picked the Los Alamos location because of its isolation and its beauty. The sessions were shot at the Trinity test site and in a Los Alamos conference room.

The participants in Session Thirteen worked on the Trinity test at different levels of responsibility. Kenneth T. Bainbridge administered the test from site selection to the write-up of the official report. He came to Los Alamos in the summer of 1943, having previously worked on radar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in England; he had also designed and built Harvard University's first cyclotron. Robert Wilson was not yet thirty when he arrived at Los Alamos in April 1943, where he headed various subgroups using cyclotron research. Wilson had come directly from a Ph.D. at Berkeley and a teaching and cyclotron research post at Princeton. During the Trinity test he helped install the bomb and measured implosion and fission behavior during the explosion.

Session Fourteen participants worked at various levels on the theoretical underpinnings of an atomic weapon. Hans Bethe, head of the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos, left Germany in 1933 for Cornell University before applying his research to the war effort in 1940. He gave up his work on explosives and radar in July 1942 when he became convinced of the feasibility of an atomic bomb. Bethe returned to Cornell after the war and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967. Frederick Reines made his reputation as a doctoral student at New York University when he developed a new equation in applied mathematics. Reines joined the Theoretical staff in late 1943 and remained at Los Alamos as a Group Leader until 1959. Canadian J. Carson Mark came to Los Alamos via research at the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago and a doctorate under Oppenheimer at Berkeley. Fellow Canadian Robert Christy arrived by way of George Placzek's Montreal study group and summer seminars in applied mathematics at Brown University in 1941 and 1942.

In addition to Bainbridge, Session Fifteen included experimentalists Robert Bacher and Norris E. Bradbury, and administrator David Hawkins. Bacher led fission studies at Cornell and worked at MIT's Radiation Laboratory before heading the Experimental and Gadget Divisions at Los Alamos. His opposition to militarized working conditions manifested itself further in his post-war efforts for civilian control of nuclear research. Bradbury put his Berkeley Ph.D. to work at the U.S. Navy's Dahlgren Proving Ground for four years before his assignment to the Ordnance Division at Los Alamos. He replaced Oppenheimer as director of the Los Alamos Laboratory in September 1945. Hawkins grew up in New Mexico and went to Berkeley to earn his Ph.D. in philosophy. He returned as administrative assistant to Oppenheimer in the summer of 1943, becoming the primary liaison between the scientists and the military administration of the Project.

Goldberg elicited comparisons of the work experience from the theoretical and experimental physicists as well as discussions of social life at Los Alamos. The series was shot on half-inch Betacam tape and provides visual documentation of the Trinity test site, Los Alamos in 1989, and period photographs of Los Alamos and preparations for the Trinity test.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
Identifier:
Record Unit 9531, Series 4
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1285

Interviews

Collection Creator::
Manhattan Project (U.S.)  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9531, The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
See more items in:
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection
The Manhattan Project Videohistory Collection / Series 4: Los Alamos
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9531-refidd1e1307

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