Cultural Landscapes of the Manhattan Project
Cultural Landscapes of the Manhattan Project


Julie McGilvray: So, I wanted to start off
by saying how cool it is to be here. Robert tells me I give him strange projects,
and this is definitely one of the most interesting ones I’ve worked on in my career at the Park
Service and probably before that. I think we just keep learning more and more,
and more about the Manhattan Project as we work on this, so it’s pretty fascinating stuff. So, I also wanted to add that Jeremy Brunette,
who is presenting after us, is also a part of this project, so we’ll do our best to answer
your questions, me from the Park Service, Robert as our partner from the University
of Oregon, and Jeremy from Los Alamos National Lab, to kind of address both talks at the
end if there’s time. So, to move forward, this is a map of the
Los Alamos portion of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. When I first started working on this project,
just as the ink was still wet on an MOU between the Department of Energy and the National
Parks Service and our other partners, I was based in the Santa Fe office of the intermountain
regional office, and I was the landscape architect on the scene. We also had a historical architect, and we
had the Vanishing Treasures program there to look at these sites with us. We went out and it was a daunting project
to begin with. As a Park Service person, I had never seen
a site like this before. What you see on this map. Oh, you guys can’t see it that well. Speaker 3: Sorry. Julie McGilvray: Okay. So, if you can see numbers one, two, and three,
that’s tech area, or TA-18, or the Pajarito Site, that’s what we’re going to be talking
about today. Four is Gun Site, and five is V site. So, these are all dis-contiguous pieces of
the Manhattan Project within Los Alamos National Lab, so this is a functioning research lab. So, working within there was very different
for a Park Service person, and we saw that these were sites that hadn’t been used in
awhile. They were in varying states of decay, and
our role as the Park Service was to help preserve and maintain and interpret these. Uh-Oh, what’s going on? Okay, there it is. So, as I started learning more about this
history and this contiguous park unit, I realized of course that this is part of the larger
Manhattan Project National Historical Park. This includes Hanford, Washington, and Oak
Ridge, Tennessee. But beyond that, this is also this vast cultural
landscape from Germany and the nuclear arms race that started there that we took up through
the Manhattan Project, and then to what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, to me this was this extended, large history,
it was complex and it was a very big cultural landscape. So those of you who are not familiar with
what a cultural landscape is, this is a concept and a set of methods we use in the Parks Service,
and also UNESCO does cultural landscape studies too, and what we’re really looking at in a
cultural landscape study is the merging of the cultural and natural to understand how
humans have adapted to a place over time, so it gives us one of the most comprehensive
looks at a site that we can get. It is a very detailed study. So, going back to the Pajarito Site, again
one, two, and three on this map. When I first went there I realized that it�s
history too, just at that site was quite layered and complex. We have everything from ancestral Pueblo and
[inaudible 00:03:52], much like what’s found at Bandolier National Monument, to ranching
history at this site that bleeds into the Manhattan Project, and this was because of
Oppenheimer’s link to this place. He once stated that his two favorite loves
were physics and New Mexico and he wanted to find a way to merge them, and he did here,
and so this landscape is very telling of that history and that development. And then, finally, the Cold War, and what
is left of that, those remnants and those resources at this site. Much of this is archeological in nature, so
I’m going to close out our talk after Robert tells you the details of our findings at this
site and I’ll give you a little bit more information about the archeology and why that’s important
in a cultural landscape and then our next steps. So with that I’ll hand it over to Robert Melnick,
and he’s going give you the details of TA-18. And again, this is a project in progress. Big cultural landscape study out here, is
the first of its kind for the Manhattan Project. And without further ado, Robert Melnick. Robert Melnick: Thanks Julie, Thanks Julie. Which button do I push to advance? Okay, right here, okay. Thank you very much. I’m really thrilled to be here, and I want
thank Debbie and Mary Yan and NCCPT for organizing this. As Mary said, I was on the� co-chair of
the first board for NCCPT so it’s been a treat to be here. I also want to say that this project is really
about this, and I purposefully wore my dog tag this morning as I was telling Julie a
few minutes ago. This is actually the second, I was never in
the military, this is the second dog-tag I’ve owned. The first dog tag, I grew up in the East coast,
and the first dog tag I got I was in first grade in the 50’s and they issued dog tags
to every school child so that when this happened they could identify the bodies. Which is kind of eerie to think about but
yet it’s kind of come full circle. As Julie said, the Manhattan Project was really
spread out across the country, at Oak Ridge, Hanford which is close to where I live in
Oregon, and Los Alamos. There were other sites around the country
as well, let’s not forget about those, but these are the three sites that make up the
Manhattan Project National Historical Park. It’s very important to look at this because
being discontiguous was a critical concept in the Manhattan Project organization. Here is Los Alamos in New Mexico, you can
get a sense of where it was. And, the White Sands for the South, Alamo
Gordo where the first test of the bomb really took place in ’45. And here is the Pajarito site. I want to talk about a couple things about
the Manhattan Project generally and the site. If you look at the site you can see the canyons
and that natural landscape. It lent itself to the organizational structure
that Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves, who was the military commander kind of agreed
upon. And that is, and it’s a critical point in
all of this, that there was extreme secrecy and in fact conceptual and intellectual segregation
of the work. People working in one area of the Manhattan
Project had no idea what was going on in the other. And this really went to the very, very top
to Oppenheimer and Groves and perhaps a couple of other people, but basically nobody knew
what was going on. V-site is where the first bomb was fabricated
at LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and there was a fourteen, fifteen foot fence around
it. Jeremy, around that? Okay. My guide over here. And, what’s important about that is that people
on the other side of the fence had no idea what was going on inside the fence. So this was true nationally, it was true at
LANL, and it was certainly true at TA-18, technical area 18, our site, the Pajarito
site. So that concept of secrecy, intense secrecy,
remember this was a time when it’s known that our enemy at the time, the Germans, are also
moving towards building a bomb of this type. There was an intense rush to get this done. As Nancy mentioned yesterday, people were
brought in. They were brought here, they had idea how
long they would be here as scientists and so on. This is Robert Oppenheimer on the left, that’s
his official ID picture and Oppenheimer and Groves on the right. Yesterday we saw that great statue of them
at Los Alamos town site. And this is a schematic drawing for the Fat
Man bomb that was dropped on Japan. So, it’s very important to understand that
there’s this intense fury almost about getting this done as fast as they could because of
the fear that if we didn’t get it done first, the bomb would be dropped on us, or some nature
of the bomb would be dropped on us. This is the Pajarito site when it was in full
bloom and you can see here kind of the core of it. There are these two canyons, Three-mile Canyon
and Pajarito Canyon, and then there are these bluffs all around it. This allowed for the structure of that landscape,
that natural landscape, to support the needs of the project, and that became an important
part. So, Oppenheimer’s love for New Mexico, which
he got as a teenager visiting here when he was a teenager growing up in New York played
into and really supported the needs of the project. This is another picture of that and you can
see, I really want you to look at these because there is this main kind of complex here, there’s
a complex here and here, and this is the only access road right there. So that landscape structure was very, very
important. And I’m going to show you some pictures of
it today. It was known in the early 50’s and later on
as the Center for Advanced Nuclear Technology. And you entered here. These are obviously pictures, these are six
months ago or so. So you entered here at the gate, it was a
very, very high security site. This site is now no longer in use and not
yet open to the public. The long term goal is that all of the sites
for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will in fact be open to the public at
some point, but it’s far from that. This is the first of what will probably be
many projects here. More here hopefully, something in Hanford,
and perhaps something in Oak Ridge as well. This is the site today, looking from on top
of one of those bluffs, and that area that I just pointed out right here was an area
that had a number of buildings on it. So one of the things that we’re trying to
do is to understand how this landscape was structured, what remains there, what can be
understood there, and how that story can be told. Remember while there is great cooperation,
and you’ll hear from Jeremy in a minute, he’s at LANL and part of DOE, and obviously Julie
is NPS, and I’m kind of a partner with them. One of the goals here is to understand how
we can tell the story of this amazing event that happened in our country’s history. Regardless of how you feel about it, it was
in fact a world changing event that happened and that we’ve all lived with ever since the
early mid 1940’s. Here’s another picture of that site looking
back at the Sloten building and Jeremy’s going to talk about that in much greater depth. But you can see the road structure that’s
still there, you can see the pads where there were some buildings, and the mesa cliffs on
the left in the photograph. We should mention that all these photographs
were taken by the third member, the second member of my team Noah Curr who’s a PHD student
who’s very research associate and part of this who couldn’t make this trip with us today. You get another sense there also of this landscape,
the vastness of it. And part of what this takes is imagining what
it would have been like when it was fully built up. And here is another picture of it. The site in the background right, it’s hard
for me to see, right up there was one of those sites. Those three sites that I pointed out outside
the core were known as casas, obviously because of the country that in the part of the world
we were in. So each casa had a different purpose and a
different activity. This is the area that remains of that core
area. You can see where there were sidewalks, there
were curbs, there were tree plantings. So you can have a real sense of what this
landscape was like. As Julie said were applying the very now accepted,
standardized, kind of cultural landscape methods for analyzing a place, but we do that differently
at every single site. And this site, as Julie said, is probably
from my point of view, although I’ve worked on many, many projects, probably the most
unusual, challenging project that I’ve ever worked on. One of the things that we take a look at in
the cultural landscape analysis is what we call clusters, where there are groups of buildings,
or groups of features that are logically together, and here you can see A, B, C, D and E. E,
which is, and it says Kiva but it really is Casa now, that’s a typo that has been corrected. A was the entry area that I showed you when
we started when people came in, B is that administrative area, and then there’s the
Casa 1, 2 and 3. The importance of this is that it really mimics
that map nationally of the Manhattan Project, that these areas are separate. The walk by the way from the administrative
area to C, or Casa 1, is less than ten minutes, so you get a sense of how large this is. And you can see that there is a butte here
that comes in, there’s a butte here, and there’s a butte back here. So you get a sense of those finger valleys
that really allowed the activities required for this site. TA-18 was very important because it did all
the criticality testing. Most of the criticality testing in preparation
for construction of the bomb and further activity after that. It didn’t stop in 1945 it actually continued
up in to the Cold War. And there are, in our paper for this we actually
list a number of other projects that were undertaken here. So it wasn’t just a one-time event, it was
ongoing where a lot of the major criticality testing occurred. This is Casa 1, and you can see the guard
tower. There was obviously a lot of concern about
security, and a lot of concern about activity here both into the 50’s but even as late as
9/11 when this was still an active site. One of the interesting things about this site,
is that as we saw yesterday there were some drawings of other sites, this site was just
built in a hurry, okay? There are some drawings for some buildings,
but the roads are just laid out quickly, and the buildings were put up very quickly because
there was this ever-prescient, Oppenheimer was always pushing his scientists to do work
daily, often into the night. People would spend, they would stay over-night
in these buildings that they needed to be there for an experiment. Remember also that even though there were
families at the site, at the Los Alamos town site, scientists could not discuss what they
were working on. So often, families, not often, always, families
had no idea what was going on on-site. All of the residents of Los Alamos had mail
addressed to a single post office. They all had a very unusual license plate
that was unique to them, and people in Santa Fe, which is about half an hour, forty minutes
away had no idea what was going on up on the mesas, okay? So you have to, remember, put your head into
that period of the war when what is going on here. Another view down here, I’ll get on the building
on the right in a second. This is the Sloten building, where Jeremy
will talk about in much greater depth where a major accident occurred, I think it was
1946 that it occurred. That really changed the way tests were done
and there was a major death that happened because of that, and Jeremy will talk about
that in a second. This is the Pon Cabin, the Pon cabin predated
the Manhattan Project and it was there, as Julie mentioned, as part of a, basically a
gun and rod club I guess, a fishing club that was there before Los Alamos was taken over
by the government for this purpose that was a boys’ school in the town site, and then
some of the activity from there extended to TA-18. I want to show you this. This is a vault that you can see right here,
where there’s the entrance to the vault, which had been, and Julie will talk about this in
a minute, originally a kavai which was a Native American activity that occurred where it was
dug in to the hills for lodging I guess, so put it like that way. But this was also the site inside, and you
can see these two images, where at one point all of the world’s active plutonium was stored,
okay? I should tell you that Noah, who’s not here
right now, took a pic. Every unit on the site has a number label,
this is TA-18-27. We took a picture of that, we printed it,
and we put it on our office door back in Oregon. So, no one knows what it means, but we do
and it’s kinda [inaudible 00:18:27] to think about. The bunkers, here’s one, which was, they’re
all battleship bunkers, here’s one and here’s what it looks like today with this cover on
it, were used for critical testing. And this is the front of it, you can get a
sense of that it looked like a battleship. This is actually a second one. There were two of them still on-site, and
they were used for various kinds of experiments. And although TA-18 was more integrated than
LANL as a whole and certainly more than the Manhattan Project as a whole, there was still
some security between what was going on in one of those casas compared to the others. So, we’re kind of really pushing that idea
that the level of security overwhelmed the kind of communication integration of all of
them. This is the backside, you can see the entrance
and you can see the number there, TA-18PL5. TA-18 obviously refers to the technical area,
and then PL5 is the number of the structure. There were gabions that were built more recently
for flood control and so on. And then, there is that whole sense, even
now, of no trespassing. One of the things we’re very interested in
is what we call small scale features, it’s kind of a collective term, one of those little
features that tell you what life was like here. Part of our goal with the cultural landscape
process and the cultural landscape studies is not only to understand the place, but as
Julie mentioned when we began, to really understand the integration of people and place. So it’s place, people, and natural systems
and how do we understand those, and in the paper that we wrote there is more detail about
this. I want to emphasize what Julie said that we
are in the early stages of this project. The cultural landscape inventory that this
is about today is not completed yet, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity given the
nature of this symposium to really share this with everyone. And now, I’m going to turn it back to Julie,
who’s going to talk about the archeological sites, and then a little bit about where we’re
going to go from here, and then we’d like to turn it over to Jeremy who will talk about
his work and then hold questions for the three of us if that’s okay. Julie McGilvray: Okay, so, the archeological
piece of this is very important, and much of the site is archeological in nature and
typically, when we do a cultural landscape study we have a lot of buildings and we have
roads, we have waterways, we might have pretty robust structures in the landscape to work
with. That is not the case here because of the evolution
of use of the site and throughout, you know, the lab’s history they built and tore down
buildings, as they needed to. So we have lots of missing buildings here
as Robert has already shown you, and a lot of the roadways and the footprints, and there’s
evidence of them still in the landscape, but again, these are archeological now in nature. So, the archeological component became a very
important part of this process, so much so that we decided that we needed to have a standalone
archeological report to address these needs that would be then woven in to the cultural
landscape study. Typically, you do these things separately,
landscape architects do cultural landscape work, archeologists do archeology. I am both, and so I wanted to pull them together,
but we will produce an archeological report from this site. So what you see here are the kavaits in the
mesa and three mile canyon. Let’s see if I can get this to work. All of these are kavait structures. These are ancestral Puebloan structures, they
were dug in to this tuft which is very soft stone, for people to create dwellings, and
they date from about 1100 to 1500 CE. So, we are in the process, while Robert’s
doing his work on the larger cultural landscape and working with Vanishing Treasures to document
these in great detail, and this work has not been completed at this point, and also the
lab had not been able to finish it either, so the Park Service is sort of coming in and
helping with this. Here’s another image of those and what you
see here are Viga holes. Viga in New Mexico language is just the post
that would have supported the ceiling, so these were multi-level apartments like what
you see at Bandolier. So, why this is all so important is because
during the Manhattan Project they went in and used these kavaits and this landscape
as they needed to support their project. So, the plutonium storage facility that you
saw was a kavait that was dug out and supported with concrete, and then they started storing
all of that plutonium in there. And then, with other ones they just literally
scraped them off the surface of the mesas. So, part of what we’re trying to understand
too is not what ancestral Puebloan sites are still here, but also how the Manhattan Project
impacted them, and how they were used for those purposes. What you see here is a prehistoric trail cut
by hand into the stone of the mesa, and again, this is very soft stone, but still, this was
cut by hand, it’s pretty impressive structure. We also know that, and here’s the other view
going up, it’s right here. We also know that the guards that were stationed
around the Manhattan Project stayed up there and used this path, and while we have prehistoric
rock art, or graffiti, petroglyphs, pictographs, we also have historic graffiti that was drawn
into the stone there as they were sitting and waiting, and it looks like they did some
good target practice up there too. This one dates from 1947. So, this preservation again, and typically
what you see in a cultural landscape is that things are completely intertwined, so you
really need to comprehensively understand a place so you make sure you’re protecting
and preserving things well. And again, the archeology has become a huge
component of this. All right, so next steps, where are we in
this project? We are in the process of completing the cultural
landscapes inventory and again, this is just telling us what we have. This does not give us preservation treatment
recommendations. We’ll also consider continue archeological
documentation over the summer, and then hopefully we’ll be starting a cultural landscape report
in the fall. And this report has our treatment recommendations
in it. Schematic design drawings, hopefully a 3-D
model of the site, and that was recommended by the Park Service so we could understand
this evolution, this coming and going of all these buildings and structures as the lab
needed to proceed into the Cold War and remove and rebuild and this just entire process. So, that 3-D model can be used by the Park
Service and the Department of Energy, and the lab to understand this evolution, but
also it could be used as an interpretive tool. And finally, we’ll have GIS of course and
an archeological treatment plan. So, that’s where things are. We are mid-stream with this. Again, this is the first cultural landscape
study of the Manhattan Project and we’re sort of testing some ideas here too, and we hope
we can continue on with this work. Thanks, I’ll hand it over to the lab now. Thank you.

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