Hanford

Years of Hanford history moving to Richland facility

Jillian Gardner-Andrews, project coordinator with the Hanford History Project, looks on as Alex Cuello from Mission Support Alliance, moves containers filled with artifacts. Thousands of Hanford artifacts are being moved into Richland where they can be put on public display. See a video at tricityherald.com/video.
Jillian Gardner-Andrews, project coordinator with the Hanford History Project, looks on as Alex Cuello from Mission Support Alliance, moves containers filled with artifacts. Thousands of Hanford artifacts are being moved into Richland where they can be put on public display. See a video at tricityherald.com/video. Tri-City Herald

A wooden telephone booth sat in the middle of one of the rows.

It was so old it had hand-crank phones inside.

Another phone booth, a little newer and more updated — but still decades old — was nearby.

It was green, and it looked weathered from the years.

The phone inside had a switch. That meant, “you had two choices: Line 1 or Line 2,” Michael Mays said.

He’s director of the Hanford History Project. Hosted by Washington State University Tri-Cities, the project is a physical and online archive of Hanford history.

The physical side is getting a big boost — in the form of the phone booths and many other items.

Thousands of unique artifacts, documents and other archival material from the Hanford site — starting in the early 1940s through the Cold War era — are being moved to a facility in north Richland. Hanford History Project has a contract to curate and care for the items, which belong to the U.S. Department of Energy.

About 40 percent of the “Hanford Collection” already has been moved off the Hanford site, with the rest scheduled to be moved by the end the September.

Hanford Collection Open house: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Innovation Center, 2895 Pauling Ave., Richland. Exhibition: Sept. 28-Oct. 31 at the Art Center on WSU Tri-Cities’ campus.

“We’re right on schedule,” Mays said, noting an open house is scheduled 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 1 at the facility, which is in the Innovation Center off Pauling Avenue.

An exhibition centered on the history of the Hanford Collection will run Sept. 28 through October at the Art Center on WSU Tri-Cities’ campus.

It will include materials from the collection.

On Friday, Mays and colleagues gathered at the Innovation Center as more items came in.

The phone booths were from Hanford’s early days. Other artifacts ranged from a massive metal scale to building models.

“They didn’t have computer programs, they didn’t have all the tools we have today, so they built these scale models,” Mays said. “It was from these scale models that they built the buildings.”

He said he’s excited for the warehouse facility — for the rows of bare shelves — to fill up.

As an academic institution...our interest is in trying to understand why things happened the way that they did, and what the implications are — both positive and negative.

Michael Mays, Hanford History Project director

The mission of the Hanford History Project is to be the premier resource for Hanford and Hanford area research, and also to work with the community to preserve and interpret the historical materials and increase awareness and understanding of the site’s history, Mays said.

Its history and legacy are complex, Mays said. And understanding is important.

“As an academic institution...our interest is in trying to understand why things happened the way that they did, and what the implications are — both positive and negative,” he said. “How I see this is, we’re making these things available for future generations. The greater the historical distance, the clearer the picture and understanding becomes.”

The collection has about 8,000 artifacts, plus archival materials such as reports and photos.

People will be able to schedule visits to check them out. Some also will be loaned to other institutions and the project will curate traveling exhibitions and hold occasional ones themselves, like the one coming up at the Art Center.

The group hopes to have permanent exhibition space in the future.

For more on the Hanford History Project, go to hanfordhistory.com.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald

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