(As published in The Oak Ridger’s Historically Speaking column on March 1, 2019)
Jim Dodson, says, “As an Oak Ridge City Councilman, I see the American Museum of Science and Energy as a great asset to our community. I would like to encourage everyone to come out on March 19 and support our internationally recognized museum as we celebrate its 70th birthday and the anniversary of the opening of the gates to the secret city.” Jim is excited about the possibilities open to us and the future of Science and Heritage Tourism. The event Jim mentions on March 19 is just the beginning of our 70th Anniversary Celebration. Saturday, March 23, will also continue the celebration with activities at both AMSE and the recently formed Oak Ridge History Museum.
The American Museum of Science and Energy is an anchor of our community and is proud to celebrate a city that once only existed in a vision and now thrives. Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is forever etched into history as a major part of the Manhattan Project. The public first was allowed into our city on March 19, 1949, 70 years ago!
Until then, Oak Ridge, once the fifth largest city in Tennessee and not on any map, was restricted to only those who lived or worked here. That changed radically when the four of the seven gates were opened and the public gained access to the city. A ribbon cutting at Elza Gate was a must-see event with an electrical current signal from the Graphite Reactor igniting a specially coated ribbon to officially open the gates.
The checking stations were built to isolate the three government facilities and they still stand today as a reminder of the importance of the work ongoing in Oak Ridge even after the Manhattan Project. Although the fences and gates have been moved to the actual sites, two of the three facilities remain vital to our nation’s security and important research and development.
Seventy years ago, steps were taken to preserve that original vision and recognize how the world was changed by the “Secret City.” The American Museum of Science and Energy tells the story about how and why people learned to split the atom. On March 19, 1949, the city’s gates and the nation’s first atomic energy museum, named the American Museum of Atomic Energy, were opened to the public for the first time.
As the Secret City grew into the Atomic City, our community expanded its scientific outreach into material sciences, global security, atomic research, and supercomputing. Our museum evolved with the times and the community into the American Museum of Science and Energy, relocating three times. In its current location at 115 Main Street East, the newly designed exhibits focus on the latest innovations and also recall our origins.
On this 70th anniversary the museum staff is proud to welcome the public to some special events:
THE FIRST EVENT is a fundraiser reception, 70th Anniversary AMSE Foundation Fundraiser Party, from 6-9pm on Tuesday, March 19, (recognizing the actual day our city was first opened to the public) for the American Museum of Science and Energy Foundation. We will be entertained by live music by the Tim Hughes Quartet, Heavy hors d’oeuvres and Cocktails will be served, and a live auction will be held. Tickets can be purchased at www.eventbright.com and search for American Museum of Science and Energy 70th anniversary celebration.
The Foundation exists to support AMSE with special events, outreach programs, rotating temporary exhibits and anything else that the normal funding does not provide for but is needed by the museum to provide the best possible experience for visitors and local groups. It is our plan to advance the capabilities of AMSE beyond the scope of the Department of Energy and to engage the community in the expansion.
We are looking to the future and see AMSE as the hub of Science and Heritage Tourism for this region of East Tennessee. We welcome you to help us by purchasing tickets to the reception and learn more about the exciting future we see for AMSE.