American Material Culture: Investigating a World War II Trash Dump

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The Idaho National Laboratory: An Historical Trash Trove Historians and archaeologists love trash, the older the better. Sometimes these researchers find their passion in unexpected places. In this presentation, the treasures found in a large historic dump that lies relatively untouched in the middle of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will be described. The U.S. military used the central portion of the INL as one of only six naval proving grounds during World War II. They dumped trash in dry irrigation canals during and after their wartime activities and shortly before the federal government designated this arid and desolate place ... continued below

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Braun, Julie October 1, 2005.

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The Idaho National Laboratory: An Historical Trash Trove Historians and archaeologists love trash, the older the better. Sometimes these researchers find their passion in unexpected places. In this presentation, the treasures found in a large historic dump that lies relatively untouched in the middle of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will be described. The U.S. military used the central portion of the INL as one of only six naval proving grounds during World War II. They dumped trash in dry irrigation canals during and after their wartime activities and shortly before the federal government designated this arid and desolate place as the nation’s nuclear reactor testing station in 1949. When read critically and combined with memories and photographs, the 60-year old trash provides a glimpse into 1940s’ culture and the everyday lives of ordinary people who lived and worked during this time on Idaho’s desert. Thanks to priceless stories, hours of research, and the ability to read the language of historic artifacts, the dump was turned from just another trash heap into a treasure trove of 1940s memorabilia. Such studies of American material culture serve to fire our imaginations, enrich our understanding of past practices, and humanize history. Historical archaeology provides opportunities to integrate inanimate objects with animated narrative and, the more recent the artifacts, the more human the stories they can tell.

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  • Great Rift Science Symposium,Pocatello,10/06/2005,10/09/2005

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  • Report No.: INL/CON-05-00339
  • Grant Number: DE-AC07-99ID-13727
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 911621
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc885276

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • October 1, 2005

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Oct. 19, 2016, 1:19 p.m.

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Braun, Julie. American Material Culture: Investigating a World War II Trash Dump, article, October 1, 2005; [Idaho Falls, Idaho]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc885276/: accessed December 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.