WSU signs deal to help preserve Hanford artifacts

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Washington State University has signed a contract to help preserve the Manhattan Project and Cold War history of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

WSU Tri-Cities will provide curatorial and archivist services, as well as a repository for the collection.

"This collection contains Hanford's most significant and unique objects from the Manhattan Project and Cold War era," said Colleen French, National Park Program Manager for the U.S. Department of Energy's Richland office.

The contract with WSU will "ensure expert care of the collection and make it available to the community, students, researchers, and the visiting public," French said.

Hanford was created by some 50,000 workers during World War II to make plutonium for nuclear weapons and continued to make plutonium during most of the Cold War era. The site, located near Richland in central Washington, is now engaged in a massive nuclear waste cleanup. However, the artifacts being collected are not radioactive.

Hanford will be part of the upcoming Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

The history of how a desolate farming region in rural Washington became a key part of the nation's nuclear infrastructure is fascinating, and historic tours of Hanford typically fill up quickly.

Washington State University is a subcontractor to Mission Support Alliance in preserving the physical history of the site. WSU's subcontract with MSA runs through September 30, and includes four one-year option periods, totaling more than $800,000.

Under the contract, WSU will inventory and track the collection, clean and stabilize objects, and make portions of the collection available for public display.

Washington State's Tri-Cities campus will also incorporate information about the collection into its student offerings.

"We are honored to take on this responsibility, and have lots of ideas for how to use the collection to expand the public's understanding of one of the most transformative periods in human history," said Michael Mays, vice chancellor for academic affairs at WSU Tri-Cities.

The Manhattan Project and Cold War collection has more than 1,600 objects, including hand painted signs, office furniture, first-of-its-kind equipment, control room panels, and personal objects from the workers who built the site from 1943 to 1945. There are more than 3,000 photographs.

During World War II, Hanford created the plutonium for the world's first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Hanford continued to produce plutonium at nine nuclear reactors during the Cold War.

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