Aerial photographs acquired from the USGS, the Freedom of Information Act.

In June 2011, I discovered that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mercury Core Library and Data Center in Henderson, NV stores ‘pre’ and ‘post’ detonation photographs of many nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site. I immediately inquired if I could have access to the photos of Yucca Flat for my project. After encountering resistance to my inquiry, I filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the National Nuclear Security Administration (in March 2012), and I am happy to say that it is finally successful. I received all the images in the mail recently: several dozens of black-and-white aerial shots that were scanned and burned to nine discs for me. I want to thank all the people at the USGS and at the NNSA Office of Public Affairs who worked to fulfill my request.

Here are a few examples:
(Images courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration, Nevada Site Office.)

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Research at the National Archives, ‘Pathway to Peace’ exhibit and presentation.

Looking through the declassified military files entitled ‘General Records Relating to Disarmament, compiled 1948–1962,’ I came upon two interesting exhibition projects. There were two folders dedicated to the ‘Pathway for Peace’ exhibit, which, from what I could tell, was a presentation to the United Nations (given by the U.S.). It then traveled around the country as a means to educate Americans on a changing attitude toward the U.S. nuclear program. There were twenty color positive reproductions of the exhibit panels, designed by The Displayers from year 1957. There were also several printed versions of a lecture text that accompanied the slide presentation, marked with editorial comments. I made a copy of the final text. I plan to record it and incorporate it into the project.

(Images courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)


The third folder in the box was a collection of material that explained technical advances in aerial photography and the role of reconnaissance in inspection. There were a few aerial photographs of the U.S. (not one of Yucca Flat unfortunately, but more on that later) and diagrams of airplanes outfitted to capture images of the landscape in a continuous strip, as the plane travels. In light of my recent Imagery Grant from the GeoEye Foundation and the way I am using satellite images in my project to bypass restrictions, I realize that our desire to see the world from above and to make use of that information has only intensified.

Research at the National Archives, nuclear detonations and craters.


These images represent just a fraction of the photographs housed at the Archives. Documentation of nuclear testing activity is stored in multiple collections. I poured through the Records of the Department of Energy, the Records of the Defense Nuclear Agency, and the Records of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. I will be returning to also consult the Records of the Atomic Energy Commission and to scan a few hundred images for use in my project. I’d like to thank researcher, Kevin Morrow, who generously made a few scans for me one day. Most researchers have brought a flatbed scanner or a tripod and SLR to the Archives. I made note of folders and images, and took quick shots with my phone. I will capture them properly when I return. (Images courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Notice the valley floor, no craters exist at the time of this early shot.

This is the March 17, 1953 Annie Test, the one in which the first round of mannequins played the role of human subjects.

Sedan Crater, Plowshare Program—excavation experiment, July 6, 1962.

“The Plowshare program, begun in 1958, sought to develop peaceful uses for nuclear explosives. The excavation tests, designed to demonstrate that nuclear devices could quickly and cheaply move massive amounts of earth in the digging of canals and harbors, were conducted at the test site. Most spectacular was the 1962 Sedan test. Buried 635 feet below ground…the 104-kiloton blast lifted a huge dome of earth 290 feet in the air, moved 6.5 million cubic yards of earth and rock, and left a crater 1,200 feet across and 320 feet deep.

Sedan also sent a cloud of radioactivity off in the direction of Salt Lake City, creating a brief scare when radioactive iodine-131 turned up in the local milk supply. Inability to totally contain the radioactivity coupled with disappointing results eventually signaled the death knell of the program in the mid-1970’s.”
(Fehner, Terrence R. and Gosling, F.G. Origins of the Nevada Test Site. United States Department of Energy. December 2000. pp.84.)

Notice the man standing at the bottom of the crater. This gives a sense of scale (bottom left corner of photo).

Sedan Crater

Research at the National Archives, Mannequins and real people.

The more I search for details on the mannequins the more the realities begin to blur. Coordinated operations, in which mannequins were carefully dressed and typical social and domestic scenes were staged, began as isolated test scenarios at the Nevada Test Site in 1953. Extending beyond the boundaries of the NTS across the nation, their story culminates in Operation Alert, in which responses to nuclear attack were simulated by real individuals. Here are few images of mannequins and real people:

(Images courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Research at the National Archives, Annie Test Mannequins.

I have been doing research at the National Archives facility in College Park, MD for the last three days. I looked at hundreds of archival documents: photographs, moving pictures, slides, and textual records that relate to nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site, the Department of Energy, and the Federal Civil Defense Administration. In particular I am searching for any image of the L.A. Darling Co. Mannequins used in the early tests of the 1950’s and documentation of the activities that were carried out in preparation for measuring and assessing the effects of nuclear weapons. I have yet to find evidence of the nationwide tour that the mannequins are supposed to have taken after withstanding the nuclear blast of March 17, 1953.

I requested over 35 boxes of archival records at the Archives and was able to capture reference shots of the material. I will be returning to the Archives to scan the most important findings. Special thanks to my research assistant, Millie Riley.

Here are few images of mannequins used in the 1953 Annie Test that were new to me:
(Images courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Before the test, the mannequins are gathered for a photo shoot:

Sometimes I find it hard to tell who is alive and who is a mannequin:

A lean-to shelter installed in a house at the Nevada Test Site:

I will be posting a few installments of examples from my visit: more images of mannequins (1953/1955), early views of Yucca Flat valley, documentation of detonations, and information on the traveling exhibit ‘Pathway to Peace.’

Project featured at ‘Remaking Research’ Symposium.

I just returned from presenting my work and research on ‘The Evolution of Silence’ at ‘Remaking Research: Emerging Research Practices in Art and Design.’ The AICAD symposium, hosted by the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, Canada, was held from November 1–3, 2012. You can view the full lineup of presenters and the symposium schedule here.

I was invited to present under the theme ‘The Political Economies of Research’ in the ‘Featured Research Projects’ section.

Remaking Research showcased Featured Research Projects from more than 15 institutions engaged in creative research.

Selected projects were shared in two ways: short, ten-minute presentations that allowed for a sharing of process, or as part of a public exhibition in Emily Carr’s Concourse Gallery from November 1–3, 2012.

Featured Research Project Presentations:
The Production of Knowledge in Art and Design
9:00 am, Friday, November 2, 2012
‘Reverse Engineering: Towards a Taxonomy of Art Practices,’ Adelheid Mers, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
‘Current Design Research Journal,’ Celeste Martin and Deborah Shackleton, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
‘Pratt’s Laboratory for Scientific Study of Art,’ Cindie Kehlet, Pratt Institute
‘Digital Ceramics Archive Research,’ Paul Mathieu, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
‘The Single Most Important Criterion for Reconfiguring Research Theory and Practice in the 21st Century,’ Anne-Marie Oliver, Barry Sanders, and Marie-Pierre Hasne, The Pacific Northwest College of Art; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Oregon Health & Science University
‘Wait a minute…,’ Gareth Jones, Rhode Island School of Design

The Political Economies of Research
4:30 pm, Friday, November 2, 2012
‘Reflections on Memory Marathon,’ Simon Pope, University of Oxford
‘Darwin,’ Justin Novak, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
‘The Evolution of Silence,’ Rachele Riley, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia
‘National Security Garden,’ Shannon McMullen and Fabian Winkler, Purdue University, Art and Design
‘Building Narratives: Installations for Transitional Space,’ Maria McVarish, California College of the Arts

Networked and Partnered Research
8:30 am, Saturday, November 3, 2012
‘e_Motion Research Lab,’ Barbara Rauch, OCAD University
‘The Artistic Animation of Research,’ Will Garrett Petts, Thompson Rivers University
‘Dialogue Between Business and Academia,’ Louise St. Pierre, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
‘CadLaboration,’ Matthew Hollern, Cleveland Institute of Art
‘Spandrel,’ Jesse Jackson, OCAD University
‘RAW DATA,’ Ingrid Koenig, Margit Schild and Elvira Hufschmid, Goethe Institut, TRIUMF, Emily Carr University of Art + Design

To read more about Emily Carr University and the research activity of faculty and students, click here.

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