Information, photographs and memories are being compiled to help document the Mound Laboratory breakthroughs that helped changed the course of the last century and continue to impact this one.
The work at the site overlooking Miamisburg east of the Great Miami River from the 1940s until it was phased out in the 1990s was cloaked in “international intrigue” as the heavily-secured center researched atomic and nuclear weapons, and how to advance space exploration.
“Every day we’re learning more and more about these incredible things that because they were top-secret, nobody was talking about them,” said Brady Kress, president and chief executive officer of the Carillon Park-based Dayton History.
“This is almost like opening a door you didn’t know about in Grandmother’s attic,” he said.
Dayton History operates other celebrated area sites, such as the Hawthorn Hill home of Orville Wright and the Paul Laurence State Memorial. But Kress said the Mound work is “unlike any project that we’ve ever talked about here at Carillon. What they were doing down there was pretty intense.”
The education center was announced last week by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner.
“The Mound and the men and women who worked there have played an important role in our country’s history and more importantly our region’s,” the Dayton Republican stated.
Dayton History’s staff is conducting interviews, cataloguing documents and artifacts, and digitizing more than 80,000 images – a project likely to take five years, Kress said.
The workers’ stories will be a critical part of the center, he said. The secrecy involved in the process added an element not likely seen at other area workplaces at the time.
“Frigidaire, Delco or NCR – they certainly had projects that they were keeping secret because they were new initiatives, new inventions and things like that,” he said, but “I don’t know that anybody at Frigidaire was worried about Soviet spies making it into the lab.”
Specifically what will be featured is still being determined, but Kress said certain topics stand out:
-Why the Mound was established and its role in World War II with the Manhattan Project, which focused on the atomic bomb;
-The site construction, which included “hundreds of thousands of yards” of re-enforced concrete;
-The processing of atomic and radioactive materials;
-Life at the Mound.
“There definitely was kind of this international intrigue,” he said. “It’s an important part of how the U.S. won the Cold War.”
The center will be located in the Mound Business Park at 1075 Mound Ave., sharing a location with the Mound Science and Energy Museum, said Eric Cluxton, president of the MDC. All told, the museum and the center will be more than 10,000 square feet and consume two floors, he said.
The content of the center will determine how it will be designed, Cluxton said.
“Based on what needs to be displayed will dictate what kind of renovation, what kind of improvements to the building need to be had and what kind of display cases” the center will include, he said.
The center will serve as a site for workshops, programs and school tours, officials said.
“The ultimate goal is to try and drive traffic down to the actual Mound site,” Kress said, “so people get a chance to seek it where it happened.”