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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Tour of the Nevada Test Site.

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

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: