In January 2017, the National Park Service completed an important step by publishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park’s (NHP) foundation document. This document establishes a baseline for park planning and interpretive activities and provides basic guidance for planning and management decisions. As presented in the foundation document, NPS promises to engage visitors in learning about the “Secret Cities,” assessing the Manhattan Project’s scientific and engineering advances, and reflecting on the dawn of the nuclear age and its legacy for today. NPS will now begin the multiyear process of creating a general management plan that will guide the Manhattan Project NHP’s operations for twenty years.
The foundation document lists the properties that are either currently included in the Manhattan Project NHP, such as the V-Site at Los Alamos and the B Reactor at Hanford, or are eligible for inclusion, including the Alexander Guest House in Oak Ridge and the T-Plant at Hanford. The document also identifies the four major interpretive themes for the Manhattan Project NHP as:
- “The “secret cities” created for the Manhattan Project, and the sacrifice and displacement connected to them, exemplified this massive wartime effort and demonstrate remarkable opportunities to reflect on the extraordinary lengths to which people and nations go to protect their futures.
- “The revolutionary science and engineering that fueled the race to create the world’s first atomic weapon make these places a powerful illustration of technological innovation and collaboration, and offer guidance and insight into solving today’s complex problems.
- “From beginning to end, the Manhattan Project, its World War II context, and the many complex decisions that led to the incomprehensible destructive power of nuclear weapons prompts us to confront the profound choices and consequences that the world continues to struggle with today.
- “The Manhattan Project thrust humanity into the nuclear age and forever changed the world, provoking consideration of dramatic scientific and technological advances as well as severe human costs and environmental consequences.”
NPS and the local Manhattan Project communities are ramping up their activities at the three sites. In honor of Black History Month, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce is hosting a month-long photography exhibit, “Atomic Integration,” on the experiences of African-Americans during the Manhattan Project. Many more activities and events are planned at each site this year.
The Atomic Heritage Foundation continues to develop resources to support the new park. With over 440 interviews on the “Voices of the Manhattan Project” website, new “Ranger in Your Pocket” programs, and more than 13,000 profiles in the Manhattan Project Veterans Database, we look forward to supporting the Manhattan Project NHP’s work to interpret this complex history.