Los Alamos National LaboratoryBradbury Science Museum
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Bradbury Science Museum

Spring Cleaning and Artifact Collections

Bringing your treasures to the Bradbury.
March 31, 2020
inside of a garage


  • Stacy Baker
  • (505) 664-0244
  • Email

For many, spring’s warmer weather brings out the urge to purge, the temptation to tidy and clean and generally welcome the season’s sense of renewal back into their lives. Amidst all this cathartic cleaning, folks often run across any manner of interesting, unidentified odds and ends that may have quietly lain in for years, decades even, in a cluttered garage, a dusty basement, or a back office. Occasionally, people even find ”treasures” in these unlikely locations, or at least they find things they think might be treasures. 

Here in Los Alamos, those treasures may even harken back to our 1940s beginnings with the Manhattan Project, which makes them  especially intriguing to the staff at the Bradbury Science Museum. But, as anyone who’s watched the Antiques Roadshow can tell you, not all that glitters is gold and not every fascinating find is the real McCoy, which makes our collections specialist’s job a bit tricky. 

At the Bradbury, both genuine and questionable artifacts arrive on our doorstep fairly regularly, which offers us the unique opportunity to inspect and evaluate a multitude of potential treasures and learn about the characteristics or details that denote authenticity. For instance, last year the Museum acquired the Idenden letters, a wonderful collection of correspondence with impeccable provenance that added a colorful depth to our understanding of what life was like for women moving to Los Alamos to support Project Y. 

On the opposite end of the authenticity spectrum, a local resident brought in a newspaper from 1942 describing the Pearl Harbor attack, except the paper wasn’t actually from 1942, as evidenced by the text on the bottom of the paper that reads "Copies available through Fleet Reserve Assn. Branch 46 P.O. Box 6067 Honolulu Hawaii 96818."  Another example of a found “fake” is a piece of trinitite that, upon expert inspection, proved to be suspect enough that our collections specialist declined to add it to the Trinitite exhibit in our History Gallery. However, both the newspaper and fake trinitite are wonderful collateral materials for other exhibits and as educational tools, so both items remain in our collections, even though they’re not formally accessioned or authentic artifacts. 

This spring, if you’re going through your garage, re-organizing that basement, or re-purposing a workspace and find a treasure that just might be historically or scientifically relevant to Los Alamos National Laboratory, please contact us for a conversation about your find. Remember, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it may actually not be a duck. But it might still be worth keeping. 

Do you have something you would like to contribute to our collection? If so, please contact our collections specialist with a photograph and description of the item(s).