The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology.
Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.
Stanley Goldberg, consulting historian for the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH), recorded eighteen video sessions with fifty-five participants involved in the engineering, physics, and culmination of the Manhattan Project. Goldberg examined the research and technologies necessary to realize the uranium and plutonium bombs. He supplemented interviews with visual documentation of the industrial plants that refined and separated the isotopes, and of the machinery that delivered and dropped the bombs. Interviewees explained the other steps of designing, building, testing and detonating an atomic bomb. Discussions with participants also elicited a social history of the Project as recalled by various men and women responsible for different duties in different locales. Between January 1987 and June 1990 the sessions were recorded on-site or in-studio in Hanford, Washington; Boston, Massachusetts; Oak Ridge and Louisville, Tennessee; Alamogordo and Los Alamos, New Mexico; Washington, D.C.; and Suitland, Maryland. The sessions are divided into five series: Hanford, Oak Ridge, Cambridge, Los Alamos, and Alberta.
This collection consists of eighteen interview sessions, separated into five series, totaling approximately 47:00 hours of recordings, and 1188 pages of transcript.
Please note that Sessions 14 and 15 in Series Four are comprised of dual sets of tape from two cameras positioned at different angles.