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Bradbury Science Museum

Artifacts now more inclusive of the Lab’s history dating to World War II

Do you have something to donate?
September 5, 2017
chair that Oppenheimer used in his office during his time at Los Alamos

One Manhattan-era object we have is the chair that Oppenheimer used in his office during his time at Los Alamos.

Over time, the collection is becoming more robust, but Wendy does have a wish list.

When she first arrived at the Bradbury Science Museum two years ago, Wendy Strohmeyer, our collections specialist, anticipated that the Museum would have many artifacts from the Lab’s Manhattan Project history. To her surprise, there was not as much Manhattan Project material as she had hoped.

“The collection did have quite a few cameras that dated back to that era,” she said. She attributes that to the fact that other equipment either was used until it fell apart or was cannibalized to create or repair other equipment. Also, people tend to handle cameras carefully, she said, as examples of precision machinery. There are even many private collections of vintage cameras for the same reason.

The Museum’s collection also includes tools, such as wrenches, crowbars, and ordinary workbench implements.

During her time here, Wendy’s seen the collection broaden to better represent the time period through both generous donations and the serendipitous acquisition of items from the set of the television show Manhattan that had started their lives as part of the actual Manhattan Project.

She has also added a number of textile items such as uniforms and lab coats of the time, along with commemorative clothing patches created to celebrate various projects and work, such as for specific test shots.

Thanks to donors, documents such as a Manhattan Project job offer letter from 1945 are now being preserved. The offer, made to a woman, was for a “technician” position. It gave the woman information on her dormitory accommodations and stated that the salary would be $175 a month. That would be around $2,400 in today’s dollars.

Over time, the collection is becoming more robust, but Wendy does have a wish list.

“We would love to have more from Leslie Groves, who worked so closely with Oppenheimer during the war,” she said. “We do have the chair that Oppie used while he was here, but we would love to get one of his signature porkpie hats.”

Do you have Lab-related items from World War II or the Cold War? Contact Wendy to find out if your items should be considered for inclusion in the Museum’s collection.