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Atomic history: debating what’s kept

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By John Bartlit

The question is not whether history will be debated. If history is kept, the debate may be one of substance. If history fades out, the debate will be “sound and fury.”

Keeping history strong and healthy is the goal of the proposed Manhattan Project National Historical Park, or some form of one.

A stimulating park of this kind would display history that changed history, its actual sites, an accurate telling of details, a breadth of aspects and human interest. The National Park Service (NPS) is tasked with assessing the potential, as well as the costs and options. Congress will choose an option, which includes an option of doing nothing.

The NPS received written comments and ideas about the park online before March 1 and at hearings. One was held on Feb. 2 at historic Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos.

There our citizens group proposed a new aspect to add to the park – environmental history. Our recommendations had three main points:

1) The park should include information and interpretive material to tell the environmental history of nuclear weapons work from the 1940s on.

2) This history should be set in the context of the nation’s environmental history for the same period.

3) These two histories should be included in any form of park selected.


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