The Department of Energy maintains and makes accessible to the general public a wide variety of historical resources. These include published and online histories of the Department and its predecessor agencies and records, exhibits, museums, and tours available online and at various locations both within and outside the Department. The Department's Office of History and Heritage Resources (OHHR) serves as the institutional memory for the Department.
DOE History: Overviews of the Department produced by OHHR include:
- The online only A Brief History of the Department of Energy
- The more in-depth Department of Energy Timeline
- The volume Department of Energy, 1977-1994: A Summary History
The Department is the lineal descendent of several predecessor agencies, including the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission. The three volume A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission documents the history of the Manhattan Project effort to develop the atomic bomb during World War II and the early years (1947 to 1961) of the Atomic Energy Commission.
- Volume I, The New World, 1939-1946, the first major published history of the Manhattan Project based on classified sources, details the origins, policies, and processes of the project.
- Volume II, Atomic Shield, 1947-1952, details startup, development, and policies of the Atomic Energy Commission, as well as major issues like expansion of the nuclear weapons complex, development of thermonuclear weapons, and beginnings of program for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
- Volume III, Atoms for Peace and War, 1953-1961, covers atomic energy activities during the Eisenhower Administration, including expansion of the nuclear arsenal, nuclear weapons testing, and negotiations to end testing,
Other OHHR publications about the Department's predecessor agencies and specific aspects of the Department's history include:
- The Manhattan Project
- The Manhattan Project: Making of the Atomic Bomb
- The Atomic Energy Commission
- A History of the Energy Research and Development Administration
- The Federal Energy Administration
- Origins of the Nevada Test Site
- Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Testing, 1951-1963
For more information on OHHR histories, see the Publications page.
Manhattan Project History: In July 2013, the Department launched The Manhattan Project: Resources, a web-based, joint collaboration between OHHR and the Department’s Office of Classification. The site is designed to disseminate information and documentation on the Manhattan Project to a broad audience including scholars, students, and the general public.
The Manhattan Project: Resources consists of two parts: 1) The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History, a website history designed to provide an informative, easy to read and navigate, comprehensive overview of the Manhattan Project, and 2) the Manhattan District History, a multi-volume classified history commissioned by General Leslie Groves at the end of the war that assembled a vast amount of information in a systematic, readily available form and included extensive annotations, statistical tables, charts, engineering drawings, maps, and photographs. All thirty-six volumes of the Manhattan District History, declassified and declassified with redactions, are being made available full-text online.
Other online resources include an assortment of websites and histories made available by the Department's laboratories and field sites. In conjunction with the opening of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park on November 10, 2015, the Department launched the K-25 Virtual Museum website.
Historical Photographs: The Department maintains an extensive collection of photographs that document the history of the DOE and its predecessor agencies. Many of these images are available in the form of albums on the DOE Flickr pages.
Information for Researchers: Records documenting the Department's history are as diverse as the Department itself. Researching these records therefore requires careful planning. Records are not maintained in a single location but are found at numerous DOE and non-DOE sites across the country. Most recent records--and significant numbers of older collections--remain in the custody of DOE's program offices and field sites and are not readily accessible. The vast majority of older records, which were routine and of only temporary value, have been destroyed under National Archives and Records Administration-approved disposition schedules as part of the normal records management process. Many permanent records from the Department and its predecessor agencies, such as the Manhattan Engineer District and the Atomic Energy Commission, are at the National Archives and Records Administration.
Information on Exhibits, Museums, and Historic Facilities: The Department supports exhibits, museums, and historic facilities across the country dedicated to displaying and interpreting the history of the Department and its scientific and technological missions and accomplishments. Public tours are also available at some of the Department's sites. Tours will be expanded as the new Manhattan Project park is implemented. Owning some of the twentieth century's most historically significant physical properties, the Department oversees a vigorous historic preservation program dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and making accessible to the public this material heritage.
Questions about the history of the Department of Energy or one of its predecessor agencies should be directed to the Office of History and Heritage Resources at OHHR@hq.doe.gov.