A new Downwinders of Utah Archive opened Monday at the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library.
It interactively shows the story of radioactive fallout in Utah related to atmospheric nuclear testing in Nevada in the 1950’s. Justin Sorensen specializes in geospatial content at the Marriott Library. He says the Atomic Energy Commission’s primary focus in the early days of testing was creating an image of strength and superiority no matter the consequences.
“And that really was what the story was until you get to the late 70’s and 80’s when you see all these victims who are actually downwinders,” Sorensen says, “and what they’ve gone through, and ordeals, and really see what was actually happening at the time.”
Sorensen says the archive contains everything from recorded interviews with downwinders to extensive cartographic maps and dramatic images of mushroom cloud heights based on raw numbers.
“Ultimately the goal of this archive is really to keep this story alive because a lot of the downwinders are passing at this time and it’s important that we preserve this information and their stories so that the next generation knowns what happened and the same mistakes are not made again,” says Sorensen.
The archive includes videos of nuclear tests, newspaper articles and documents showing the impacts of the experiments as well as changes in the official government language related to the test detonations.