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Science Tubs: Artifacts you can touch!

February's collections article.
January 28, 2020
Bowl of fruit with geiger counter.

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  • Stacy Baker
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Generally, when Museum staff talk about artifacts, they’re referring to items topically and historically relevant to the Lab’s mission that include compelling documentation of their provenance. For instance, the Museum is in the process of accessioning a certain book with unmistakable ties to one of the Manhattan Project’s most influential personalities (details to come this summer!). This book’s history is well documented and singular details within the book’s pages make it especially identifiable. This highly anticipated artifact checks all the boxes for an officially accessioned artifact and our collections specialist is very excited to bring it into our care. The artifacts for this month’s article have far less documented provenance and are a bit less intriguing perhaps, but they still play a very important role in the Bradbury’s outreach efforts.  

The artifacts discussed in this month’s article are part of our education collection, specifically those included in our Radiation tub, which is one of eight science-themed tubs the Museum loans out to educators and Lab staff who volunteer with local groups as part of our mission to encourage and support STEM education in Northern New Mexico. Included in the Radiation tub are a Geiger counter, radiation sources, and even an example of a protective suit, offering educators unique visual aids and exercises aimed at illuminating what radiation is, what it isn’t, how it effects our day to day lives, and how it influences work at Los Alamos.  

Like most of the artifacts in our education collections, items in the Radiation tub have been given and gathered over the course of time and each item brings its own bit of remembered history: who donated it, what the donor’s connection to the Museum is, what their role at the Lab may have been. So, this Radiation tub does include some pretty interesting local history along with its engaging science, it’s just not as well documented as items within the Museum’s officially accessioned artifact collections.  

The Bradbury Science Museum is dedicated to connecting the public to the science and history of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Part of creating that connection involves encouraging learners of all ages to know more about the science all around them and to boldly engage with it. If you’re a local educator or Lab employee interested in borrowing the Radiation tub, or any of our science tubs, please contact our educators at bsm-edu@lanl.gov to check availability and borrower requirements.