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Update on the ‘Annie’ test mannequins.

In Las Vegas I found photos of the mannequins being dressed and on display at the J.C. Penney store before the March 17, 1953 detonation.

Las Vegas Review Journal, March 6, 1953.

Las Vegas Sun, March 7, 1953.

Los Angeles Examiner, March 10, 1953

Las Vegas Review Journal, March 1953

Las Vegas Review Journal, March 7, 1953

Las Vegas Review Journal, March 8, 1953

I found photos of the mannequins sitting in a group on chairs, being photographed outside in a Las Vegas neighborhood. I believe the photo was taken at Third and Carson Streets. James (Eure) could decipher ‘Third Street’ on the street sign in the first photo. Crystal (Van Dee) was able to confirm the street sign names as ‘Third and Carson’ with the help of a jeweler’s loupe.


Searching further through the collections at the Nevada State Museum, I found a news release announcing that the County court house would be used in preparation for the March 17 test (at that time the court house stood at Third and Carson).

Las Vegas Sun, March 9, 1953

The group photo outside is similar to one I found at the National Archives:

I found newspaper accounts that the mannequins had been removed from Yucca Flat and brought back to Las Vegas after the March 17, 1953 detonation. In this photo they are gathered again after the test, now damaged. They seem to be at the same site as in the earlier photo shoot (Third and Carson), but without a view of the houses across the street I can’t be certain.

It’s possible that this site (Third and Carson) is the setting of the J.C. Penney advertisement photo shoot. The double-page advertisement of ‘before’ and ‘after’ states of the mannequins was published in the Las Vegas Review Journal on April 3, 1953.

I found another J.C. Penney advertisement from early March 1953 featuring the mannequins in their ‘before’ state only in the Las Vegas Review Journal. These are the same ‘before’ shots used later in the April 3 comparison.

I did not find any pictures or accounts of the mannequins on public display at the J.C. Penney store after the detonation of March 17, 1953. For now, the question of the mannequins’ post-detonation display in Las Vegas (at J.C. Penney or elsewhere) remains unanswered.

However, I did find several newspaper accounts of the mannequins on public display in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles in early April 1953. The mannequins were on view for three days and staged in similar ways to how they were found after the detonation at Yucca Flat. The newspapers report: ‘Mannequins play second fiddle to F-84’ (The F-84 Thunderjet was in an adjacent display). The mannequins were being studied for radiation in Los Angeles. I wonder whether the Civil Defense officials cancelled their plans for a nationwide tour of the mannequins after the exhibition in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Examiner, April 1, 1953 Sec 1–3.

Albuquerque Tribune, April 1, 1953

Las Vegas Review Journal, April 1, 1953

Los Angeles Mirror, April 1, 1953

Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1953.

Las Vegas Review Journal, April 1, 1953.

The subject of my archival research, appreciating Las Vegas.

There are three main threads to my archival research. I am searching for:
(1) any images or textual accounts of the L.A. Darling Co. Mannequins, information on their public display at the downtown J.C. Penney store in Las Vegas and the tour they allegedly made of other cities, confirmation that they were displayed both before and after the March 17, 1953 ‘Annie’ Test, and any leads to their current whereabouts;

(2) newspaper accounts of nuclear testing at Yucca Flat of the Nevada Test Site, any form of visual or textual documentation that provides a supplementary view to that of the Department of Energy, as well as images and films of atmospheric and underground testing activity, subsidence craters, cables, towers, vehicles, structures, and other ruins of testing experiments; and

(3) an analysis of the effects of nuclear testing on people, environment, politics and culture, documentation and records on (for example) the Baneberry venting case, protests at the NTS, and designed exhibits and publications.

Over the course of this project, I have searched the microfilm, manuscript, photo, film, map, book, and military collections of the Library of Congress, the Mercury Core Library and Data Center, the USGS Central Region Library, and the National Archives. This past December in Las Vegas, I spent several days in the archives and libraries of the Cahlan Research Library of the Nevada State Museum, the University of Nevada Las Vegas Special Collections, and the Nuclear Testing Archive. As a result of these hours spent, combing through personal collections, publications, ephemera, newspaper clippings, microfilm, photos, and film reels, I have hundreds of images and notes to add to my findings. This material will give further dimension to the project. In the next several weeks I will be working to interpret these discoveries and incorporate them into the archive and into my exhibition proposal.

I want to thank the people I met in Las Vegas who helped me with my research:
Crystal R. Van Dee, Curator of Manuscripts at the Cahlan Research Library
Karen Green, Curator at the National Atomic Testing Museum
Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator, Historian at the Las Vegas News Bureau Archive
Dan Garrison, Producer at Joshua Tree Productions Inc.
Jennifer Cornthwaite, Director of the Emergency Arts Center
Su Kim Chung, Manuscripts Librarian at UNLV Special Collections
Kelli Luchs, Photograph Archivist at UNLV Special Collections
Delores Brownlee, Library Technician at UNLV Special Collections
Thomas Sommer, University and Technical Services Archivist at UNLV Special Collections and
Dennis McBride, Director of the Nevada State Museum.

Thanks to James Eure for his assistance.

A page out of a scrapbook of clippings regarding Civil Defense, Patricia Lee Collection, Cahlan Research Library.

Identifying desert flora at the Springs Preserve.

Bladder Sage (Salazaria mexicana)
We made several visits to the Springs Preserve and Nevada State Museum, which are situated in the same area, on beautiful and fittingly-named Valley View Boulevard. Food at the Springs Café is prepared by the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas and we regularly ate there before conducting research at the Cahlan Research Library (within the Nevada State Museum). I would have loved to have had more time for hiking in the Springs Preserve. The short walk we made provided a useful introduction to some plants and has helped me identify some desert flora. I plan to incorporate more of this kind of information into my project, as well as research that I have found on the effects of nuclear testing on the environment.

Mojave Aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia var. tortifolia)
White Bursage (Ambrosia dumosa)
Virgin River Brittlebush (Encelia virginensis)
Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)
Turpentine Brush (Ericameria laricifolia)
Bladder Sage (Salazaria mexicana)
Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa)
Grizzly Pricklypear (Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea)
Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Strawberry Hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmannii)
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens)
Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

Tour of the Nevada Test Site.

With about twenty-five other visitors, I rode out to the Nevada Test Site on Thursday, December 13. (The Nevada Test Site now goes by the name: Nevada National Security Site.) Our full-day tour was led by Ernie Williams, a former Atomic Energy Commission employee and, at the age of 82, a participant and witness to most U.S. nuclear testing activity.

No pictures, no recording, no cellphones, no video allowed. While we drove around I noted the cable lines strewn about, the few subsidence craters I could see out the window, towers and other testing equipment that stands in ruin, the houses from the 1950s that, situated furthest from ground zero, remain as empty shells, and other evidence of experiments conducted.

We were allowed off the bus at two spots within the site: in Frenchman Flat to stand underneath a warped steel bridge (damaged by the force of an early atmospheric nuclear test), and, later that afternoon in northern Yucca Flat, where we stood at the dramatic edge to Sedan Crater. It was a rainy and snowy day with little visibility. I was a little sad to have missed the view of mountains that surround the valley. From my 2008 visit I remember the feeling of vastness in the valley, and the feeling like we were inside a place. While mountains encircle Yucca Flat and there is a natural feeling of enclosure, the fact that it is a highly restricted area probably contributes to that impression.

Sedan Crater
(Images courtesy of the University of Nevada Las Vegas Special Collections, DOE Collection.)

Nearby, at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

Wednesday, December 12 we drove out to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge on a windy sunny day. We returned dusty, a little sunburned, inspired. The Refuge is about 20 minutes north of Las Vegas, off Highway 95. It is a protected area of 2,300 square miles (from the brochure): ‘The wide range of elevation and rainfall has created amazingly diverse habitat suited to a wide variety of flora and fauna. The Desert Wildlife Refuge is a land of great diversity. Here the Mojave Desert ecosystem merges with the Great Basin ecosystem on this vast dry landscape.’ It is a similar environment to the Nevada Test Site, which lies just beyond, a few ranges away looking north.

The beautiful Corn Creek:
We recorded sound that day.
Walked, took photos, shot video.
It was very windy but we did make a couple of solar prints of plants (that is sun print paper underneath the brush in the picture below), but I had hoped to do much more. I am applying to the Goldwell Open Air Artist Residency for the summer. There, I will be creating a series of prints based on the mannequins, the mojave desert ecology, and the architecture of the testing program.

Artifacts of Atomic Testing.

On Tuesday, December 11, I met with Jennifer Cornthwaite, Director of Emergency Arts, at Fremont and sixth to discuss exhibiting in LV, and to get insight into the arts center. I met with Karen Green afterwards at the National Atomic Testing Museum. She is Curator and Collections Director at the Museum. The National Atomic Testing Museum has a collection of artifacts from the atomic testing period, mostly from the Nevada Test Site, but growing in scope to include objects and artifacts from all of the U.S.’s testing locations. I was able to visit the exhibition quickly, and then we went upstairs to the collections room. Karen had received an anonymous donation of two 1950s era mannequins that were used in testing at the NTS, a woman and a boy. The words ‘Property of the Atomic Energy Commission Yucca Flat Range Ground Zero’ are stenciled in black on their backs. Their hair wigs are lost, but their eyes are intact. They have hand-painted glass eyes.





I have been spending time in the University of Nevada Las Vegas Special Collections library. I looked through several photographs of testing activities (from the Department of Energy) and manuscript collections from journalists and historians. I also consulted the thesis dissertation of Angela Christine Moor entitled, ‘Selling Civil Defense: The Politics and Commerce of Preparedness, 1950-1963.’ I met her at the Cahlan Research Library in 2008 as she was finishing her MA in History at UNLV.

We will be at the UNLV library one more time before we leave, on Tuesday, December 18.

Las Vegas Review Journal (UNLV Special Collections: Dorothy Dorothy 95-20)

NTS News, Vol. IX, No. 3. February, 4, 1966 (UNLV Special Collections: Edward Halligan T84)

Images courtesy of the UNLV Special Collections (Department of Energy 0282 Collection):

Images courtesy of the UNLV Special Collections (Department of Energy 0282 Collection):

In the meadows.

I am in Las Vegas, Nevada for ten days (I arrived Sunday, December 9, 2012). On the first morning, Monday, December 10, I met with curator and historian, Brian Paco Alvarez, and filmmaker and producer, Dan Garrison, at The Beat café in the Emergency Arts Center in downtown Las Vegas (Fremont and 6th). It is in the former J.C. Penney building, the store which donated clothing for Federal Civil Defense Administration tests at the Nevada Test Site in the early 1950s, and the site where the L.A. Darling mannequins, who experienced the force of nuclear blasts, were put on display for public viewing.

Emergency Arts, the former J.C. Penney building:
We discussed ‘The Evolution of Silence’ and the possibility for its premiere as an exhibition here in LV. Paco is working to establish historic designation for the former J.C. Penney building in downtown Las Vegas because of its role in the history of the Nevada Test Site.

We spent the afternoon at the Nevada State Museum Cahlan Research Library, looking at photographs, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, maps, and publications from various collections. We are returning tomorrow to finish looking at the clippings in the Patricia Lee collection and to search the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review Journal newspapers from 1953 on microfilm for pictures and articles about the mannequins on display.

Mannequins on display, before the ‘Annie’ nuclear test of March 17, 1953 (from the Las Vegas Review Journal, March 6, 1953):

Mannequins being organized, after the ‘Annie’ test:

Expressive scans of drawings.

Here is a selection of recent experiments and interpretations of the cables that lie around the NTS. I have several drawings that have already been incorporated into the web-based archive and I am trying to find other ways to evoke landscape and the ruins of nuclear testing through line and space. The little handheld scanner I use allows me to ‘draw’ as I capture; recorded is the new ‘drawing’ which re-interprets fragments of the original drawing. Each scanning event involves gesture and movement, and the unknown. It is always a surprise to see how the original drawing is transformed.

Drawing with a scanner is a new expressive approach for me that came out of my workshop week at Design Inquiry/Design City: Berlin this past August. Special thanks to Florian Sametinger and the Design Research Lab for the opportunity to continue this visual experiment.

Over the last week I have been preparing my research goals and itinerary for an upcoming trip to Nevada. I will be visiting and meeting people from the Nevada State Museum’s Cahlan Research Library, the University of Nevada Las Vegas Library and Special Collections, the Springs Preserve, the Atomic Testing Museum, the Las Vegas News Bureau, the Emergency Arts Center, the National Desert Wildlife Range, and the Nevada Test Site.

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.)





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.



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