AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXVIII, No. 2, Fall 1996


The Archives and History Program of Los Alamos National Laboratory

by Roger Meade

Since 1982 the Los Alamos National Laboratory has supported an archives and history program. The purpose of the program is to preserve the documentary heritage of the Laboratory, promote and manage declassification of all possible records, and produce histories on various aspects of Laboratory activities.

The unique position of Los Alamos in American history is well documented in the records of the Laboratory. These records include documents on the making of the first fission weapons used in World War II, on the development of the Super (or hydrogen bomb), and on such areas as nuclear rocket propulsion, early reactor research, and nuclear test ban negotiations. In addition to the records of the Laboratory's technical work, the archives holds records of administrative activities including the earliest interactions between the University of California and the Manhattan Engineer District.

With the creation of the archives and history program in 1982, Los Alamos also recognized that it had a public responsibility to provide access to its collections. Since most of the Laboratory's records were classified, the archives was given the responsibility of coordinating the declassification of records based on research requests. Since 1984, well over 5,000 documents have been declassified and made available to researchers from all over the world. Currently the Laboratory is declassifying National Security Information documents under Executive Order 12958. Over the next year, the Laboratory will make these documents available through several additional sources including the World Wide Web, Open Net, and OSTI.

In 1993, Cambridge University Press published Critical Assembly: A Technical History of Los Alamos During the Oppenheimer Years, 1943-1945. Critical Assembly by Lillian Hoddeson et al. is the first technical history of Los Alamos published since 1983. Planning is underway for another technical history of the Laboratory that will cover the tenure of the Laboratory's second director, Norris Bradbury. The archives and history program has also published shorter histories and provides documentation to historians, journalists, and students for use in their individual works. Among the published works the archives and history program assisted is Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes and the interactive CD-ROM Critical Mass by the Corbis Corporation.

For further information on the Los Alamos National Laboratory, please contact Roger Meade at 505-667-3809 (voice), 505-667-9749 (fax), or by e-mail at

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