Los Alamos National LaboratoryBradbury Science Museum
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Bradbury Science Museum

Artifact Placement and Storytelling

December's collections article.
November 30, 2019
Blast-gauge canister exhibit at the Bradbury Science Museum.

Blast-gauge canister exhibit at the Bradbury Science Museum.


  • Stacy Baker
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Exhibits in the Bradbury galleries tell many different stories about the Lab. Whether historical in nature or related to the Lab’s current mission and research, each of these visual accounts helps Museum visitors understand the Lab’s beginnings and how its early days continue to influence national security research at Los Alamos.

Each exhibit in the Museum chronicles a piece of the Lab’s story, with each of the three Museum galleries serving as a chapter in that story. The History Gallery leads viewers through the inception of the Manhattan Project to the end of World War II, while the Research Gallery focuses on current, leading-edge science happening at Los Alamos. The Defense Gallery brings together the Lab’s compelling history and ongoing research to help visitors to the Bradbury understand why research at Los Alamos remains an essential component of national security.

Sharing these stories with visitors of all ages, from every country, and from all walks of life requires a layered approach to storytelling. Explanatory text, visually compelling graphics, and hands-on activities all contribute to that “A-ha!” moment for our visitors. Of particular value to storytelling at the Museum are the Manhattan Project–era artifacts, those tangible, thought-provoking pieces of history included in some of our exhibits.

Some artifacts act as the focal point of an exhibit, as is the case with the life-size models of Fat Man and Little Boy in the Defense Gallery. Other artifacts are used to add depth, context, and clarity to an exhibit’s overarching story, as is the case with the blast-gauge canister located next to those models of the world’s first atomic bombs.

August 6, 1945, when Little Boy was released from the Enola Gay, three blast-gauge canisters were released simultaneously from the Great Artiste, an instrument plane accompanying the Enola Gay. Designed to gather data about Little Boy’s energy yield, the parachuted canisters floated downward, capturing data about the explosion’s shock waves and transmitting it to scientific observers aboard the Great Artiste.

Of those three blast-gauge canisters, only one is known to have been recovered and remains in Hiroshima. However, at the Bradbury, visitors can examine a blast-gauge canister identical to those released back in 1945. The centerpiece of its own small exhibit, the canister complements the much larger models of the World War II nuclear weapons and adds depth and context to the story of events that happened over Hiroshima in 1945.

The Bradbury Science Museum invites you to visit our galleries and experience your own “A-ha!’ moment.