Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project

Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project" is a series of digital paintings and essays inspired by the declassification of Manhattan Project photos taken in the Hanford and Richland, Washington area during and post WWII.

The above digital painting is Where The Old West Greets The New, Declassified from the Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project series of paintings.

Based on govt photos documenting the birth of the atomic era, I re-examine the cultural context and do digital paintings...with a twist

That the plutonium dropped on Nagasaki was made at Hanford in southeastern Washington State, or that Hanford is said by some to be the most toxic site in the western hemisphere, and one of the most polluted sites in the world, is still, I don't believe, known by many. One hears a lot about Los Alamos but not so much about Hanford, though leaking tanks have contaminated the groundwater and created a plume that will eventually reach the Columbia River if not contained.

I grew up in Richland, a town that was built by the Manhattan Project to house workers at Hanford and which remains so proud of its heritage that the mascot of the Richland high school is a bomb, the students are known as The Bombers and the emblem of the school is a mushroom cloud.

April1959 Richland Washington
Above: Enjoying a picnic on someone else's private pier on the Columbia River at Richland.

My father was a scientist at Hanford through the 50s and 60s, studying the effects of low level radiation on miniature livestock and when I was nine years of age I was one of the many school children in Richland who took part in a very casually portrayed testing on the possible transmission of low level radiation through local dairy and food. So, though we moved away from Richland when I was ten years of age (to Augusta, Georgia, located next to the Savannah River Plant, which was another plutonium production facility and has its own troubled history) the area has been an abiding interest of mine, for Richland has a rather unique history and was an unusual place to live.

In many ways it was a great place to grow up in, for the government and the town, even while poisoning the area, attempted to make Richland as attractive as possible to families, most of which were youthful with young children.

I had approached some of the issues concerning Hanford in my book Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World or In Search of the Giant Penguin, but in the latter editing stages decided that this subplot was inessential and removed it. But I still wanted to do something concerning Hanford/Richland.

When I learned of the Hanford Declassification Project which recently made available nearly 77,000 photographs and other documents, I was greatly interested.

The description of the declassification project from the Hanford Historical Declassification Project website reads:

The Department of Energy, Richland Operations Office (RL) has aggressively implemented the commitments made by the Federal Government to openness in Government which was stated as a "Fundamental principle that an informed citizenry is essential to the democratic process and that the more the American people know about their Government, the better they will be governed. Openness in government is essential to accountability . . ." RL is committed to responsible openness. The Hanford Declassification Project (HDP) was initiated by RL to declassify to the maximum possible extent all previously classified Hanford operations information (documents and photographs). There are over 77,000 declassified photographs of early Hanford (1943 - 1960) available. These World War II and Cold War era photographs depict early Hanford construction and the employees/families who lived and built/operated the site.

The archive first captured my imagination when a search for the words "Nagasaki" and "Hiroshima" yielded no results. It was curious to me that Nagasaki and Hiroshima had been excised so neatly from the declassified documents for this portion of the Manhattan Project, which made me wonder what I could find using keywords one wouldn't associate with the bomb--such as dancers. Thus was initiated my own ongoing project of taking the photos and using them as base for digital paintings and collages, attempting to examine cultural context and--with the images and commentary--make a bridge between Hanford/Richland and Nagasaki, between the atomic era then and nearly three-quarters of a century on.

View all the paintings below or on my blog in the Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project category.

Read my essay that initiated the project, Growing Up in the Shadow of Mount Fuji.

The Digital Paintings

Colored or Manipulated Photos

More Posts on the Blog

Burial of Hot Goods at the 300N Site at the Hanford Project (7 pics)

The Birth of the Hanford Project and Richland, Washington

It's Halloween in 1953 Richland, and what are the Atomic Frontier kids thinking?

The Hanford Project's 1966-1967 study of Tri-city School Children in the Influence of Diet on Radioactivity in People

Our Visual Aid for Confirmation of a Ketchup-like Slow Leak In Radioactive Waste Tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reserve

Life Magazine's Article on the Hanford Project's Plastic Man

Halloween, Sex, and The Atomic Frontier ' The Hanford Project, 1951

The Atomic Frontier Meets Slim Pickens at the Boy Scout Circus

The Little Red Plutonium-Porting Wagons of the Hanford Project

'Hot' Work for Toys at Hanford ' The Life Article

The Wheel of Death ' 1950?s Richland, Home of the Atomic Frontier

One Curious and One Uncomfortable Photo Concerning the Old Hanford Townsite

The Atomic Frontier Children's Reading Hour

Radiation Decontamination of a Locomotive

The Atom and You

Hanford Science Forum 1957

My Most Favorited Photo on Flickr

"Red Rain" and the Japanese fire balloon that coincidentally found its way to Hanford

More Beach Babes of Hanford

"Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project" was a Counter Punch website of the day in April of 2007.