Monday, October 13, 2008

Day 115: Part of a process

ceiling view at the National Atomic Museum

It appears that this blog might as well be renamed the atomic blog since the topic has become such a reoccurring theme. I had a friend (thank you Lisa) remark to me last week that the blog seems to have become a record of my growing interest in this topic. I guess I'll see how life unfolds in the coming weeks, but it does seem like my current travels and all the sites/experiences that I have intentionally curated for this trip are fueling the impossibility of not making something (art) in response to all of this. I feel as though I am still in deep research mode and could be for awhile. In many ways the topic is becoming larger, more complex and multi-faceted. But in the past couple of days conversations have helped some pieces come together, ideas have been gathering, and maps are starting to be made around this enormous topic. But until something really starts to crystallize, this blog will probably continue to be a space to hold/record aspects of my process of arriving at a response that can meet all the accumulated information and experience.

Yesterday we spent the morning touring the National Atomic Museum, another "Smithsonian Affiliate". The National Atomic Museum is "the Congressionally-chartered official Atomic Museum" for our country. Here, we were allowed to take photos throughout the galleries. The museum itself is a bit of a drab brown box filled with old missile casings and aging wall texts. But I found the spareness and less directed flow through the galleries welcome after the lock-down and hyper-mediation encountered at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas. It felt more human. A new space with a new name, National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, is going to be opening in the spring of 2009 to replace this older building. So, it is still yet to be seen how the material and exhibits will be handled after the move. For now, the content of the museum was less biased than what I have encountered up to this point. For instance, women were included in the history of the Manhattan Project and there was a wall text admitting that the, "the best known and most controversial sources of deadly radiation are nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants". There was also an entire wall dedicated to the prospect of the atomic "demonstration" proposed by scientists (instead of direct bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima), which I believe is a little known fact of history. In a later display near the front of the museum there was a panel promoting alternative energies, it acknowledged there is currently no safe or secure way to store nuclear waste long-term. This wall included photos of wind generators, which seemed to be a hint that other renewable resources might be a more viable option. Yet, there was still a large portion of the museum dedicated to illustrating how much "natural" radiation one encounters on a daily basis. Somehow this still felt like a weak distraction from the undeniable reality of how toxic nuclear bombs are, this is why they were invented after all... The museum also shows films in their theatre each hour and the one that we watched about the modern applications of nuclear technologies felt like it was leaving out some seriously important details, making the motivations and value of the technologies described highly questionable given the absent, but obvious, consequences (except in a few medical contexts).

Today we drive to Los Alamos.

1 comment:

nc said...

re: atomic blog -- I love this blog, and can't wait to see it continue to evolve. Also, so excited about the prospect of you making art about this. We HAVE to talk when you get back. Seems I am in a parallel process of sorts...

re: museum: I'm so happy there seems to be threads of honest to this place. I do wonder what the new place (2009) is going to look like...