From 1948-2003 much of the scientific research at Mound Laboratory was so top-secret, employees couldn’t talk about their work with their family members.
“All we knew was he was a research chemist at Mound. That’s all he could say,” said Leslie Birden Bailey, the daughter of a researcher at the facility.
Birden and her sisters Lisa and Gail attended Monday’s grand-opening event at the Mound Cold War Discovery Center. They were pleased to find their father’s face displayed in an exhibit about the space race.
“It’s a wonderful thing to have the work that they did recognized and the fact that they were participants in it,” said Lisa Birden Garland.
The women’s father, John Birden, began as a researcher at Mound during the Manhattan Project. He later helped invent the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG), a power source in satellites, space probes, and unmanned remote facilities, which gave the U.S. an advantage during the Space Race.
Gail Birden said, “It’s the background for so much that’s in our society today that we take for granted.”
Stories like Birden are now immortalized in the new Discovery Center.
It took two years for Dayton History to interview retired scientists and sift through thousands of photos and artifacts.
“Putting this exhibit together was a lot different than anything else we’ve done because of the secrecy of what the projects entailed,” said Brady Kress, the president and CEO of Dayton History.
At the height of its productivity, Mound employed about 2,500 workers and occupied 116 buildings across 306 acres. The facility was essential to national security and technology development during the Nuclear Age and the Space Race.
A representative from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management touted the new museum as a testament to the country’s innovation during the Cold War.
Congressman Mike Turner (R- Ohio) also attended the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Her said, “What’s exciting about this facility is we’re finally going to be able to tell the story of the men and women who worked here, the ingenuity that occurred and what that meant for our country – and really the world.”
Kress added, “I think when people first walk in and they start to go through the exhibits… they’re going to think, ‘Wow, I had no idea nay of this happened right here in Miamisburg, Ohio.”
The museum will be open to the public Wednesday-Saturday.
You can find more information about the Mound Laboratory and the museum here.