OAK RIDGE — For the month of April 2023, the exhibition can bee seen, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Oak Ridge History Museum, which is housed in the Midtown Community Center at 102 Robertsville Road, Oak Ridge, TN. That building itself is a significant landmark of Oak Ridge history. Constructed 1944-45, it has been used as a bathhouse and laundry, a hangout for students, a senior center, the Oak Ridge Convention & Visitors Bureau, and office of the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association. Many long-term Oak Ridgers refer to it simply as the ”Wildcat Den,” harking back to the time it was home base of the high school’s football team, the Oak Ridge Wildcats that were national champions in 1958.
NORRIS — The W. G. Lenoir Museum in Norris Dam State Park will be hosting “HerStory: A Photography Exhibition of Women in the Secret City.” The exhibit will open on March 1, and be on display through the month in honor of Women’s History Month.
Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and opened in May 1936, Norris Dam State Park was managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority for 18 years prior to becoming a Tennessee State Park in 1953. Oak Ridge’s selection for the Manhattan Project was, in part, due to rural electrification that Norris Dam accomplished.
During the early 1940s, the park was closed to the public and the CCC vacation cottages winterized to house Manhattan Project workers. Later serving as a popular recreation destination for the growing government town, Norris Dam State Park continues to attract visitors from throughout the region. The construction of Norris Dam and Oak Ridge necessitated the relocation of countless families of the Clinch River valley by the federal government. These historical events connect these parks, and this new partnership will strive to tell the full stories of these places.
From janitors to homemakers and chemists, the women of the Manhattan Project worked hard and talked little. During WWII, Oak Ridge was a government town of 70,000 workers; primarily women who lived in a camp-like environment of barbed wire, security checkpoints, and code words. Workers were fingerprinted, interviewed, assigned a job, and given a clearance badge. Housing was limited and cramped and often unheated. Food at the cafeterias was in short supply and lines were long.
The photographs were taken by James Edward Westcott, a renowned photographer who worked for the U.S. government in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Westcott was one of the few people permitted to have a camera in the Oak Ridge area during the Manhattan Project. For more information call the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at (865) 482-1942.
— National Park Service