Update on Fundraiser at USA Projects.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to my USA Projects fundraiser over the last two days! The USA Projects Open Match Fund matched $250 of your contributions. Please continue to share the link. Thank you!

http://www.usaprojects.org/project/the_evolution_of_silence

All donations are tax-deductible and the fundraising model is ‘all or nothing.’ If you have not yet made a donation, please know that your contributions will make a difference and will mean a lot to me. I have a few art perks to offer for donations at $50 or $100 (at the Haymaker or Noggin levels—named after denotations, of course!).

Please consider making a contribution today and share the link with others!

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Pahranagat Valley, NV, first research trip in 2008.

In related news: the Web-based archive will launch in 10 days! I will be presenting it in conjunction with ‘Praxis and Poetics’ at the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, September 3–5. This week my focus is to develop the section of the website that presents and interprets the LA Darling Co Mannequins. As you saw in my USA Projects video, I have a lot of research material to incorporate!

Scans of mannequins and tests. Images courtesy of the National Archives.
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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.
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Las Vegas Sun, March 7, 1953.
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Los Angeles Examiner, March 10, 1953
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Las Vegas Review Journal, March 1953
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Las Vegas Review Journal, March 7, 1953
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Las Vegas Review Journal, March 8, 1953
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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.

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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).
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Las Vegas Sun, March 9, 1953
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The group photo outside is similar to one I found at the National Archives:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Albuquerque Tribune, April 1, 1953
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Las Vegas Review Journal, April 1, 1953
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Los Angeles Mirror, April 1, 1953
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Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1953.
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Las Vegas Review Journal, April 1, 1953.
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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.
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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.’