On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Santa Fe, the Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) hosted a program at the St. Francis Auditorium of the New Mexico Museum of Art to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Manhattan Project. The program was presented on November 18, 2007, jointly with the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum, New Mexico Historic Preservation Office, and the Los Alamos Historical Society. The Los Alamos National Bank generously contributed to underwriting the event.
Over 150 people attended the program, filling the wooden pews of the handsome former chapel, now part of the museum. Dr. Frances Levine, director of the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum, graciously welcomed the mix of Manhattan Project veterans and families and other interested guests. Larry Campbell, President of the Los Alamos Historical Society, and Katherine Slick, New Mexico State Historic Preservation Officer, helped audiences appreciate the significance of the Manhattan Project and the historic developments that took place in New Mexico.
AHF president Cynthia C. Kelly talked about the Foundation’s work to preserve some of the physical monuments of the Manhattan Project across the country, including the several significant properties at Los Alamos. In October 2006, the “V Site” at Los Alamos became the first Manhattan Project property to be preserved by the Federal government. Preservation was made possible by a combination of a Save America’s Treasures grant and non-Federal funds as well as support from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In addition, the Oppenheimer house was deeded in a living trust agreement to the Los Alamos Historical Society in 2005, thanks to Helene and Gerry Suydam.
The program featured Ellen Bradbury Reid who shared her memories as a child of the Manhattan Project. Her family moved to New Mexico in the summer of 1943. After living in an Albuquerque motel and a tent in BandelierNational Monument, she and her family finally found housing inside the fence that circled Los Alamos laboratory and the fledgling community. Ellen offered her view of the bewildering “top secret” effort from the perspective of a precocious six-year old. Click here to read one of her stories.
Dr. George Cowan, a Manhattan Project veteran, discussed working on the atomic bomb effort at the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, where he had witnessed Enrico Fermi’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Cowan provided several very amusing anecdotes concerning his involvement. He later went on to a distinguished career in science and business, founding the Santa Fe Institute as well as the Los Alamos National Bank. To read Dr. Cowan's full remarks, click here.
Since it was a warm afternoon, the reception was held in the courtyard of the museum. The two speakers joined in signing copies of the Atomic Heritage Foundation’s new anthology, The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses, and Historians. In addition to contributions from Ellen Bradbury Reid and George Cowan, the book contains over 130 entries with many first-hand accounts as well as dozens of historic documents that give readers insight into the Manhattan Project and its legacy.