Test Tube Community: Constructing Normalcy in Cold War Los Alamos, the new temporary exhibit at the Los Alamos History Museum opens 4-6 p.m. Sept. 6.
Sponsored by Enterprise Bank & Trust, the exhibit explores social life in Los Alamos during a period when the town was striving to create a community out of what had been a muddy, hastily-built army base.
Bringing the exhibit to life are family photographs, interviews, and artifacts ranging from an AEC tenant’s handbook to the soda fountain taps from Pierotti’s Soda Bar. Root beer floats and chocolate cokes will be served at the exhibit opening—enjoy a soda bar favorite from the Cold War era before exploring the exhibit!
Test Tube Community takes its name from the headline of a 1955 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican. The journalist, Relman Morin, found the community in Los Alamos to be “as though you put 13,000 people in a test-tube, closed it with a stopper, and said ‘Let’s see what will happen.’”
The town itself might have been seen as an experiment, with houses, businesses, and infrastructure planned by the AEC. In some ways, Cold War Los Alamos was a model
American community, but in other ways, the town was unlike anywhere else in the world. As Los Alamos constructed itself, in what ways was the community creating something normal or average, and in what ways was it creating something unique?
The new exhibit has at its center the experiences of the people who worked, played, and grew up here during the 1950s and 1960s. What was it like in Los Alamos before residents won a hard-fought battle for state citizenship? How did it feel to have your home assigned to you by the government or have your entrepreneurship limited by a government list of approved businesses? How did people in Los Alamos create their own fun, from hiking to forming dozens of clubs to putting on home-grown music and theater performances?
These stories and more are shared in Test Tube Community, illustrated with newspaper articles, photos, memories, and historical artifacts.
Were you here during the 1950s and 1960s, or do you have family stories from the era?
Be sure to share your story when you visit the exhibit: write it down on one of the provided sheets and then clip your story to the wall for other visitors to read. The first-hand memories shared in the museum will be collected in the Los Alamos Historical Society Archives, adding to our understanding of this period of our local history.
Don’t miss the opening of Test Tube Community 4-6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6. After exploring Test Tube Community, head next door to the Fuller Lodge Art Center for the opening reception 5-7 p.m. of their new exhibit Through the Needle’s Eye. Enjoy two great exhibits opening the same evening!
The Los Alamos History Museum is at 1050 Bathtub Row and open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. The Los Alamos Historical Society preserves, promotes, and communicates the remarkable history and inspiring stories of Los Alamos and its people for our community, for the global audience, and for future generations. Learn more at losalamoshistory.org.