National Archives at Atlanta

Secret City Symposium

The Story of Oak Ridge and the Historical Research Possibilities

The National Archives at Atlanta offers a unique opportunity for new and original scholarship. Representing only a fraction of our entire holdings, the records of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the Atomic Energy Commission present numerous possibilities in historical and related research.

From a history of science and technology perspective, its contributions are numerous. Just a few include

  • Production of enriched Uranium for the Manhattan Project.
  • Pioneering of Nuclear Medicine through isotope research.
  • Development of the first commercial Nuclear Reactors.
  • Introduction of early fusion experimentation.
  • Research to develop nuclear aircraft that led to new materials used by NASA.

From the perspective of urban history, Oak Ridge’s story is also significant.

  • The application of Eminent Domain to remove a thousand families from 56,000 acres to build Oak Ridge and its production facilities.
  • The planning of a non-existent town to the largest of the secret cities and the fifth largest city in Tennessee.
  • The quick construction of homes and businesses to attract an educated populace years before the "Levitt Towns" of the post war era.
  • The transforming of a government-run city to a citizen-run municipality during the 1950s.

From a social and anthropological standpoint, the potential research topics are also as rich.

  • Women, like men, worked at the production facilities. The Calutron Girls operated the electro-magnetic "racetrack" at Y-12 while others served in a multitude of capacities. Other women raised families never knowing what their spouses did for a living.
  • Secrecy was kept at all costs during the Manhattan Project years. People did not talk about what they were doing and "disappeared" if they did.
  • Although brand new, Oak Ridge was still a segregated Southern city. How were African Americans treated in the Secret City?
  • What were the psychological effects of discovering one had helped make the atomic bomb 0r had worked near radioactive Uranium and Plutonium?