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.
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
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.