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History was recently made when the Center for Oak Ridge Oral History received a donation of oral histories and other history-related materials from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to add to its growing collection.
The center, headquartered in Oak Ridge Public Library, was established in 2009 as a partnership between the city of Oak Ridge and the U.S. Department of Energy.
A committee of community volunteers, organizations and state and federal agencies provide advice and guidance to the city on its oral history initiative.
Their goal is to seek oral histories from those who played a role in Oak Ridge and the surrounding area before, during and following the Manhattan Project.
The center plans to make oral histories available to the public at the Oak Ridge Public Library and online.
ORNL History Room Coordinator Debbie Dickerson and volunteer members of the ORNL History Room turned over DVDs and transcripts they had gathered and prepared to Oak Ridge Public Library Director Kathy McNeilly and Center for Oak Ridge Oral History Coordinator Anne Marie Hamilton-Brehm.
“Over the years, about 300 oral histories have been recorded, and our plan is to consolidate copies of all of that material in one location,” said McNeilly. “We have about 100 interview candidates, and we will soon begin new interviews with those important to our city’s history.”
The center’s initiative complements existing work by DOE through its Networking Oak Ridge Oral History, which enables former federal employees involved in key programs on the Oak Ridge Reservation to be interviewed and their corporate knowledge assembled to create a resource for the next generation that may otherwise be lost.
Collectively, the center and the network support part of agreements DOE has entered consistent with requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act and other agreements as approved by the Tennessee Historic Preservation Office and National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
“The Manhattan Project is widely regarded as the most significant event of the 20th century,” said Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson.
“With the possibility of Oak Ridge receiving a designation as a Manhattan Project National Historical Park, these histories will be invaluable to the National Park Service and DOE as they develop public educational and interpretive materials about Oak Ridge,” he added. “We are grateful to ORNL for the donation.”
Anne Marie Hamilton-Brehm joined the city staff as the center’s coordinator in 2009 and has been working closely with stakeholders to build the collection and make it available to the public.
Over the next few years, additional oral histories will be turned over to the center for public access.
Call Hamilton-Brehm at 865-425-3455 for more information about Center for Oak Ridge Oral History or to participate in an oral history interview.