The new K-25 History Center will be hosting “Mud, a Photographic Exhibition of Life in the Secret City.” The exhibit will open on Thursday, February 27, and it will be available for viewing through the month of March.
During World War II, Oak Ridge was a quickly built as a secret government town of 70,000 workers who lived in a camp-like environment of barbed wire, security checkpoints, and code words, a press release said. Workers were fingerprinted, interviewed, assigned a job, and given a clearance badge. Housing was limited and cramped and often unheated.
Oak Ridgers who ventured into Knoxville were easy to spot. The quickly constructed secret city was blanketed in a thick layer of mud. As a result, its residents’ muddy shoes were a dead giveaway as to their origin. “The muddy conditions of Oak Ridge during the war was a commonality that all residents, regardless of occupation, had to contend with,” the press release said.
Most of the photographs in the “Mud” exhibit were taken by James Edward Westcott, a renowned photographer who worked for the United States government in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Westcott was one of the few people permitted to have a camera in the Oak Ridge area during the Manhattan Project, a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first nuclear weapons.
The photo exhibit was made possible with the collaboration and support of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, and the American Museum of Science and Energy.
The K-25 History Center is located at 625 Enrichment Street at the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge. Starting Thursday, February 27, it will be open seven days a week. It will feature exhibits with more than 250 original artifacts and interactive galleries developed with help from almost 1,000 oral histories.
The K-25 site helped enrich uranium for the first atomic bomb used in wartime, and it enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants through the Cold War.
The K-25 History Center is housed in 7,500 square feet of space on the second floor of the city-owned fire station at the former K-25 site, now known as Heritage Center. The History Center was developed as part of a 2012 agreement that allowed DOE to demolish the North Tower of the former mile-long, U-shaped K-25 Building.
Besides the History Center, a Viewing Tower and Equipment Building are also planned at the south end of the former K-25 Building. Covering 44 acres, the K-25 Building was once the largest building in the world.
Uranium enrichment operations at the K-25 site ended in 1985, and the site was permanently shut down in 1987.
The site is now being cleaned up and converted into a large industrial park. The cleanup work is scheduled to be mostly completed this year.
Oak Ridge is now part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park along with Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the K-25 “footprint,” the area where the building used to be, is part of the park.
For more information, call the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at (865) 482-1942.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
You can contact John Huotari, owner and publisher of Oak Ridge Today, at (865) 951-9692 or [email protected]
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