And now, after many years of searching for a home, the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum has come in from the cold. On April 1, the board leased a 7,000-square-foot property in the heart of downtown Arvada – originally a post office, most recently a church – that it will turn into an actual museum, filled with exhibitions, classrooms and research areas. Using a congressional appropriation of $492,000 that then-senator Wayne Allard secured in late 2007, as well as countless hours of volunteer labor, the board has been assembling artifacts and an oral-history collection with more than a hundred interviews of former workers – including Garcia and Miullo – as well as activists and community leaders. Materials that had been in storage units for years – the DOE donated the contents of its Rocky Flats visitors' center, among other things -- are slowly making their way to the museum's new home; Conny Bogaard, an art historian, has been hired to catalogue the collection and has made it through a thousand items so far. "It is a very interesting collection from a historical perspective, because it covers the whole history of Rocky Flats, about fifty years of history," she notes. "Sadly, after Japan's disaster, it has new relevance."

New items are arriving every day – some from former employees' attics, others from local museums. Last Friday, the Boulder History Museum's "history on the go" van delivered box after box from the archives of the late H. Peter Metzger, the scientist who worked for Rocky Flats – and took such glee in debunking any journalist who wrote pieces critical of the plant, including many in Westword. Lipsky says he'll donate his hat, "but they'd have to negotiate for the all-access FBI pass."

Even before all these materials are archived, the board is wrestling with how to display them. Kim Grant, who works as grants administrator for the City of Arvada and helped locate the museum's home, says he and fellow boardmembers have hired an exhibit design firm to determine the best way to tell the Rocky Flats story – and while it works that out, the board will be raising money so that story can continue to be told after the appropriation runs out, in 2013. "We have some preliminary themes that we've identified," he notes. "The main thing we want to do is make sure this whole story is approached in an objective, historical fashion.... We're working hard to tell a balanced story."

The plan is to focus on five areas: the history of Rocky Flats, the history of the Cold War, science and technology, the workers...and the protesters. Yes, the protesters who demonstrated outside the plant for two decades, and were often hauled off in handcuffs, will definitely be included; LeRoy Moore, head of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, is a longtime boardmember. (Since January, Moore has been hosting the series "Rocky Flats: A Call to Guardianship"; at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, Lipsky and McKinley will discuss "The 1989 Raid on Rocky Flats & Its Fallout" – even though both men are technically forbidden to discuss what they learned about Rocky Flats. )

Back when Colorado was campaigning to win the Atomic Energy Commission's proposal to put a nuclear facility sixteen miles upwind of Denver, there weren't many protests. In fact, the state celebrated as the Rocky Flats project was announced on March 23, 1951 – although just what, exactly, that project would be was not publicized. The mission of Rocky Flats spilled out over the years, sometimes into the very land beneath the plant, and today is outlined in a decade-by-decade timeline that the DOE, the successor to the AEC, produced after the plant was decommissioned. Those boards are now part of the museum's collection: the celebratory stories in the '50s; the "Hush Hush Blaze hits AEC" article in 1969, when a fire broke out at Rocky Flats (Bogaard says she's come across some amazing photographs); a pro-nuke protest in the '70s. But the biggest headlines followed the June 1989 raid, and the investigation, and the secret settlement that followed. (Westword broke the first big story in September 1992, in "Justice Denied"; the papers of the late Judge Sherman Finesilver, who signed off on the deal, would make a great exhibit for the museum – but after his estate donated the judge's papers to the Denver Public Library, court officials came and removed anything involved with Rocky Flats.)

A storage facility is still full of boxes and tabletop maps that show the layout of the 6,200 acres that once constituted the plant, most of which will be opened to the public in the next few years as a wildlife refuge (some of the most contaminated acres will always be off limits). There are big pieces of equipment, too, including the gloveboxes that workers used to handle radioactive material in the notorious Building 771. Garcia remembers the first time she went there, how dark and spooky it was – but the building became her favorite, "because they were like family there." She's still hoping to find the Fiestaware plates that were part of a visitors' center exhibit, where schoolkids learned that even common household items were radioactive — but perfectly safe, of course.

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3 comments
COisdoomed
COisdoomed

I Know! Let's build a super hiway right through Rocky Flats and call it the Jefferson Parkway. Let's develop the areas to within a few miles of ground zero! This historic area will attract business and residents who will be proud to have children born with mutations, in honor of our nuclear past.Yea that's it!

Justiceforall
Justiceforall

Wow a wildlife refuge .We will get a chance to see 6 legged deer , birds with night vision, and feces that glows in the dark

Anyone234
Anyone234

apparently you have never eaten at tacobell... that will glow too... lol

 
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