Savannah River Site’s long history as a center for nuclear weapons production has generated its share of artifacts, which now have a permanent home.
“We’ve tried to collect things that tell all parts of the Savannah River Site story,” said Caroline Bradford, the Cold War artifacts curator for a new 27,000-square-foot “curation facility” dedicated Tuesday with tours and a ribbon cutting.
Housed in a renovated 1960s warehouse once set for demolition, the center holds two main collections: Cold War artifacts from 1950-89 and archaeological artifacts that span 12,000 years before the site was created.
The Cold War collection, kept in a climate-controlled room, includes everything from test tubes to time clocks, along with vintage nuclear items that are so secret they cannot be photographed.
A lead-lined “decontamination basin,” vials of heavy-water samples, fuel rod processing gear and other items are mixed with everyday items such as phones, desk fans, trash cans and “no trespassing” signs.
One of the more interesting artifacts is known simply as “Robin,” short for robotic insect. The six-legged robot, still packed in a NASA crate, dates to about 1983 and was modified for use in nuclear reactors, Bradford said. The other surviving Robin robot is at the Smithsonian Institution.
The archaeological collection, which is still being moved in from storage, will eventually include more than 1,000 boxes of artifacts from explorations and digs over several decades.
The curation facility is not a museum, but rather a place to preserve important items and help the site comply with the National Historic Preservation Act and other laws that require care for historic federal resources.
David Moody, the Department of Energy’s site manager, and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions President Dwayne Wilson praised the facility as a symbol of the site’s efforts to reuse its assets in pursuit of new missions.
“We tried to tear this building down several times and, fortunately, did not succeed,” Moody said.