Information from the January 2016 issue of “Advocate,” a publication of the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board
A new virtual museum helps preserve the history of the former K-25 site, which was built in west Oak Ridge to enrich uranium for atomic bombs during World War II and once had the world’s largest building under one roof.
The K-25 Virtual Museum was launched in November by the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) as part of a memorandum of agreement for the interpretation of the historic site now known as East Tennessee Technology Park, or ETTP.
The debut of the online museum coincided with the November 10 signing of an agreement between the Department of Energy and the Department of Interior establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The Manhattan Project was a top-secret federal effort to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II.
The K-25 Virtual Museum can be viewed at http://www.k-25virtualmuseum.org/.
“The website is an impressive product that will serve to inform an international audience about the incredible work that happened at K-25, beginning with the Manhattan Project and continuing through to the cleanup mission we are executing today,” said OREM Manager Sue Cange. “The online museum includes a comprehensive history of Oak Ridge, photographs, interviews with former workers, a 3D model of the K-25 Building and Happy Valley hutment, among other items of interest.”
The Virtual Museum has several main pages that explain K-25 and the surrounding area. The home page provides the initial introduction to K-25 with links to other pages.
Additional main sections include the K-25 Site Tour and a map of all of the buildings with links explaining their various functions.
The page Life in Happy Valley describes living conditions in the self-contained community. K-25 was several miles from Oak Ridge, so Happy Valley sprang up where workers could be near their jobs.
The Preservation page describes in more detail about future site interpretation, and the
Oral Histories page has many transcribed interviews with former workers.
Throughout the site are many photographs of work and life associated with K-25.
Historic preservation work at ETTP is being done independently of the Manhattan Project Park, but will be part of the park.
Efforts to preserve part of the K-25 Building were taken in the mid-2000s.
Work on historic preservation at ETTP has been underway for some time, beginning well before steps to establish the Manhattan Project Park.
Ultimately it was determined the old building was in no condition to be saved. But a final memorandum of agreement was signed in 2012 by a number of signatory and consulting parties that contained several stipulations for historic preservation of the site. The Virtual Museum was one of those stipulations.
Another stipulation was the provision of $500,000 by DOE to be applied toward the purchase of the rapidly deteriorating Guest House in Oak Ridge. The Guest House was where many Manhattan Project VIPs stayed in the 1940s.
It was later renamed the Alexander Inn, but fell into disrepair. Using the DOE funds, it was bought and renovated for use as an assisted living facility and is now called the Alexander Guest House. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held just a few days before the release of the Virtual Museum and the signing of the national park agreement.
Other stipulations to come include the construction of an Equipment Building that will be a scale representation of the gaseous diffusion technology used to enrich uranium. The Equipment Building will have a viewing tower that will overlook the mile-long U-shaped footprint of K-25.
The second floor of the adjacent ETTP fire station will have a museum of Manhattan Project and K-25 artifacts and a theater. There will be wayside markers around the K-25 footprint and other locations at ETTP.
Completion of the remaining stipulations is dependent on funding.
Full establishment of the Manhattan Project Park and completion of ETTP stipulations are some time away, but for now people in the U.S. and around the world can log on to learn about K-25 and its place in history.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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