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Government Video Website of the Week: Department of Energy Test Films

Who doesn't love archival footage of America's golden era of weapons testing?

Who doesn’t love archival footage of America’s golden era of weapons testing?

Part of Operation Upshot-Knothole was a 15-kiloton test fired from a 280-mm cannon on May 25, 1953, at the Nevada Proving Grounds. Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Office.

In an age of increasing government secrecy, the easy availability of historic nuke-test footage seems almost quaint. But there it is, on the Department of Energy Website: a treasure trove of explosions, airplanes dropping bombs and other Cold War classics.

According to the voice-over on one of the films, thousands of films of tests were made in just the Southwest. The Department of Energy has embarked on the Nuclear Weapons Film Declassification Project to make available films that contain historically significant events in the development of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, according to the Website.

The “Historic Test Films” section of the site ( doesn’t have thousands of films, but it does have about 50 – just about every one literally a blast from the past, a monument to American ingenuity and common purpose.

For a variety of people, from military historians, to people tracking the spread of cancer in the American West, these films will provide hours of fascinating and educational viewing.

Because of the unique look at the scientific and military adventures of the time, the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Safety Administration Nevada Site Office footage library is the Government Video Website of the Week.

The site also has a section on “Current Videos,” most from 2001 or after. The trained eye might find a lot here, but to civilians, some of the footage resembles incomprehensible or ordinary construction of industrial activities, perhaps meaningful only to nuclear physicists. A film of one underground test, for example, just shows some complex machinery, with audio of a countdown.

The site also includes toms of historic photos and documents and instructions on how to obtain them from DoE.

The nuke films have a possibly unintended feature as well – some of them are just simply works of beauty. There is something intriguing about a local apocalypse long ago, in a remote desert. And to make the films even more striking, someone along the way added music to some – and not just ordinary music but sounds that are some kind of avant garde orchestral compositions, like the sound at the end of this one.

So turn up the computer volume and have a look at But stay away if you have any unsavory intentions; the site warns, “Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized site, Department of Energy, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign.”

So scrub your hard drive, turn up the audio, pour a scotch, light a cigarette and travel back in time.

And check out last week’s Website of the Week, where the Florida Department of Corrections tackles the information hundreds of thousands of convicts and helps out unwanted dogs, too.

Does your agency go above and beyond on the Web to serve the public? Tell us about it at