Hanford Reach story contained in modern Richland museum

During the peak of the Hanford Nuclear Project, before the end of World War II, more than 51,000 people lived and worked on what is now known as the Hanford Reservation.

Families lived in the “largest trailer camp in the world,” grew Victory gardens behind white picket fences and battled the relentless dust of the Columbia River Gorge.

The workers, all sworn to secrecy, were driven to work each day in large tan and white buses to do their part working on the nation’s first nuclear bomb, named “Fat Boy.”

Today, the history of those Atomic Age workers is held in trust at the Hanford Reach Museum and Interpretive Center, which is also known as the Gateway to the national Hanford Reach Monument.

The museum and interpretive center, located on the banks of the Columbia River in Richland, is only a year old, but it has already attracted more than 20,000 visitors, according to Claire Dann, a Hanford Reach Museum curator and education coordinator.

Speaking to the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club this past Wednesday morning, Dann invited the Rotarians to come visit the museum and tour the center’s 18 acres dedicated to the ancient and modern history of the area.

The interpretive center, opened in July 2014, Dann said is continuing to add exhibits to its original 14 displays. The newest exhibits include a workers’ bus, and a recently discovered trailer used as housing for some of the Hanford workers of the post-war nuclear industry.

“It is amazing how well preserved the trailer is, and it is also amazing that a family of four could live there in the Richland area without air conditioning,” Dann said.

The Hanford Reach Museum and Interpretive Center also pays tribute to the geological history of the Mid-Columbia River Basin and how it was formed during the ice floods.

Dann said tours of the Reach are available, in addition to the hands-on exhibits inside the center. The center also offers educational classes, teacher training, a native plants garden and an outdoor theater space.

Dann said the center, located at 1943 Columbia Park Trail, Richland, is open from 9 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday, and on Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.

“Come visit us,” she urged the Rotarians.


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