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About these nuclear films

by Kevin Hamilton

When it closed in 1969, the US Air Force's Lookout Mountain Station in Hollywood, CA had in its possession over 6500 films. The unit produced these films largely as part of America's nuclear weapons development programs. These films were produced for internal and external viewers, for purposes of science, education, and the pursuit of government appropriations.

Upon the lab's closure, the films and archives went to the Department of Energy in Nevada, and eventually found their way to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, where they reside at the DTRIAC facility. Under President Clinton, Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary began a new process of declassification that led to the review of these films for release to the public. Before funding dried up for this effort in 2001, the declassification process reviewed and released 96 of these films, many of them formerly classified. They are now available by request from the Bechtel Corporation, who acts as a contractor to the DOE.

Requests result in the transfer of a film from Betacam to VHS. Some parties have begun requesting VHS copies and uploading them to the web.

As the digital copies of these declassified films might potentially represent a copyright violation or other such protest, we saw fit in our efforts to begin transferring extant copies to the Critical Commons. We'll be posting other films as well that we believe are likely to exist in the archives at DTRIAC, but which have not yet been reviewed for clearance, despite existence elsewhere on line.

In this way, we aim to begin the process of organizing these films to tell the story of America's filmic front in the Cold War. Though the majority of these films were intended only for internal use, they still offer a meaningful glimpse of film's role in evolving nuclear policy.

More commentary to come.
-Ned O'Gorman and Kevin Hamilton

DOE.0800021 - Operation Plumbbob

Filed under: ,

Operation Plumbbob, conducted between May 28 and October 7, 1957, represented the biggest, longest, and most controversial test series in the history of the Nevada Test Site (NTS).

from Operation Plumbbob (1957)
Creator: Department of Energy
Posted by Kevin Hamilton