American Museum of Science and Energy
The American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE) presents both permanent and rotating exhibits, including robots, science puzzles, a NOAA weather station, a timeline of atomic discoveries, a large Van de Graaff generator, a display devoted to nuclear weapons and the Y-12 Plant, and a solar energy demonstration project. Its flagship exhibit, titled "Secret City - The Oak Ridge Story", was completely redesigned and rebuilt in 2007. A World War II-vintage flattop house, one of many inhabited by Manhattan Project workers in Oak Ridge, opened as a walk-through attraction in 2009. It should be noted that the AMSE is currently closed (Summer 2018) and is reopening in the Fall after it moves to its new location at 115 Main Street East, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Backstory and Context
The American Museum of Atomic Energy first opened in 1949. Its first space was inside an old wartime cafeteria at the Oak Ridge site. Oak Ridge was one of three sites chosen by the government and the military to develop the materials necessary to test and eventually create one of the deadliest weapons of mass destruction known to man – the first atomic weapons. This particular site was used to turn Uranium 238 into Uranium 235, which could then be used in the weapons being developed at the Los Alamos site in New Mexico.
The earliest exhibits informed visitors about the many ways atomic energy could be used for peaceful purposes, rather than blowing up entire cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The name of the museum was changed to the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE) in 1978. It continues to provide visitors with valuable information about energy and the way it is developed and used by society. The museum also shows how the scientific breakthroughs made in the last century have been applied to the real-world. There is a panorama of historical photographs, documents, and artifacts that help to explain the story of Oak Ridge and the role it played in the Manhattan project. The Y-12 and National Security exhibit displays models of weapons, protective apparel and tools. There are also hand-on activities available to teach families about the processes and safety features essential to the Y-12 plant.
There are a number of activities offered to families with small children. The Exploration Station and the Earth’s Energy Resources exhibit teach the younger guests about light and color, sound, static electricity, basic robotics and even more. There are problem-solving exercises as well. Some of the older children will enjoy the exhibits like World of the Atom, which teaches them about nuclear energy, fusion, and the atomic scientists.
Finally, there is a building on display that was restored from the original 1940s era of the Oak Ridge unit. It is one of the first flat-top houses provided to workers in the “secret city.” A tour of the restored home is included in the price of admission to the museum. As of Fall 2018 (when the museum re-opens at its new location), the cost of an admission ticket is only $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for adults aged 65 and over and $4.00 for children between the ages of 6-17. Children aged 5 and under, as well as those who paid a museum membership, are admitted for free.
Moore, Alan. Nevada Test Site Overview. O.N.E. Online Nevada Encyclopedia. March 18, 2010. Accessed August 04, 2018. http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/nevada-test-site-overview.
American Museum of Science & Energy. Roadside America. . Accessed August 04, 2018. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11488.
3 Reasons to Visit the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge. Explore Oak Ridge. . Accessed August 04, 2018. https://exploreoakridge.com/blog/american-museum-of-science-and-energy-oak-ridge.