The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History – Albuquerque, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

The official atomic museum of the United States explores the explosive and productive history of a much maligned energy source. 


The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History was established by the United States Air Force in 1969 as a repository of information about the Atomic Age, from the early days of atomic weapons development through more modern, and peaceful, uses of nuclear technology.

The museum presents, through a series of exhibits, displays, artifacts, and hands-on models, the history of nuclear energy research, biographies of the pioneers of the field, a look at life in Los Alamos during the days of the Manhattan Project, the effects of the Atomic Age on society and pop culture, the moral quandaries nuclear weapons can create, as well as a diverse array of other subjects ranging from nuclear waste disposal to the evolution of computers.

One of the most popular attractions of the museum is the five-acre outdoor Heritage Park, a sprawling exhibit of military aircraft, decommissioned rockets, missiles, cannons, and a nuclear sub sail. Heritage Park is the largest aircraft collection available for public viewing in the state of New Mexico and includes an M65 Atomic Cannon (nicknamed Atomic Annie and one of only eight on display worldwide) and a Nike Hercules Air Defense Missile.

The creation of the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History was the result of a six-year effort to establish a museum to tell the story of Kirtland Air Force Base and the role it played in the development of nuclear weapons and energy during World War II. Originally located on the base in an old 90 mm anti-aircraft gun repair facility and called the Sandia Atomic Museum, the name was changed in 1973 to the National Atomic Museum in an effort to reflect the museum’s growing audience and the fact that it was the only public museum that preserved the history of the nuclear industry. The museum closed its doors at Kirtland on September 11, 2001, due to the heightened security measures at the USAF base and was temporarily moved to a rented location in Albuquerque’s Old Town district until February 2009. The museum finally re-opened in its current, permanent location in southeast Albuquerque in April 2009, when it was renamed the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

The museum is the only Smithsonian Affiliate Museum in the city of Albuquerque, and was chartered by Congress in 1991 as the official Atomic Museum of the United States. The site was even used as a set for some of the shady dealings on the hit television show, Breaking Bad

Know Before You Go

Eubank Blvd. SE at Southern Blvd., six blocks south of Central Ave. and off of Interstate 40, exit 165.

From Around the Web