The Hanford time capsule, packed with papers from 1955, courtesy Washington Closure Hanford

The Hanford time capsule, packed with papers from 1955, courtesy Washington Closure Hanford

Environmental workers have made an unexpected discovery while preparing a building on the site of Hanford’s Cold War-era nuclear reactor in Washington for demolition: a time capsule from the 1950s.

In a building close to the site’s D reactor – a relic of the Manhattan Project, involved in the development of the Atomic bomb – the team from Washington Closure Hanford found a green metal coffee tin, sealed with electrical tape, tucked inside a wall behind a section of asbestos panelling.

Although numerous traces of the facility’s former employees have been uncovered during the clean-up operation, this represents a more deliberate deposit than the usual finds of cigarette packets and assorted rubbish. 

A note from the past: the only clue to who compiled the capsule. Image courtesy of Washington Closure Hanford

A note from the past: the only clue to who compiled the capsule. Image courtesy of Washington Closure Hanford

Inside the tin was a selection of newspaper cuttings from several different titles, gathered over several days during September 1955. These included snippets of local news, matters of national importance such as President Dwight Eisenhower’s heart attack, and scraps from the GE News, an in-house publication read by Hanford workers.

Together with these tightly-packed pages was a brief note from the capsule’s compilers. Written on a sheet of Hanford company memo paper, this consisted of the date – ‘9-26-1955 AD’, the words ‘to whom it may concern’, and three names: K Edward Thomas, Monte D Dickinson, and Henry L Matear.

The building earmarked for demolition, where the capsule was found. Image: Washington Closure Hanford

The building earmarked for demolition, where the capsule was found. Image: Washington Closure Hanford

So far no other clues to why these three men were inspired to create the collection have been found. Tom Marceau, senior cultural resources specialist for Mission Support Alliance – the Hanford contractor responsible for collecting artefacts from the site – hopes to trace them if they are still alive, however. Anyone with information that could help can reach him at: Thomas_E_Marceau@rl.gov

To read more about Hanford’s Cold War heritage and the archaeology of the Atomic Age, see our special report from CWA 58

 

 

All images courtesy of Washington Closure Hanford

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