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Hanford Archive Allows Peek Into Secrecy, Urgency Of Wartime

For decades, artifacts of life and work from the Manhattan Project and Cold War era at Hanford have been locked away. Now, these historical items are being trucked off the southeast Washington nuclear site and curated at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

WSU Tri-Cities’ Hanford History Project Director Mike Mays showed off some of the artifacts inside a cavernous warehouse. Among the archive are are old wooden desks, phone booths and scale models of reactors.

“We have hospital equipment, we have radiation safety equipment, we have push trucks, hand trucks,” Mays added.

There’s even a painted wood sign of Adolf Hitler. It’s a cartoon of Hitler with a big ears -- like he’s listening. It was supposed to encourage Hanford workers to button their lips.

“Especially when you see the objects themselves, it brings that history home in a way that stories in books just can’t do,” Mays said.

The full collections -- with thousands of items -- have been scanned for contamination and tediously declassified by the government. The Hanford collections will be studied and displayed at museums and used in schools.

A Hitler sign that was intended to be posted on a fence, reminding Hanford workers to button their lips during war times, is part of a collection of Hanford artifacts being curated as part of the Hanford History Project at WSU Tri-Cities
Anna King / Northwest News Network
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Northwest News Network
A Hitler sign that was intended to be posted on a fence, reminding Hanford workers to button their lips during war times, is part of a collection of Hanford artifacts being curated as part of the Hanford History Project at WSU Tri-Cities

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.