[…] Waves of declassified photographs and movies from the nation’s push to make Little Boy and Fat Man — the world’s first atom bombs — are exciting not only to Mr. Coster-Mullen but a generation less familiar with the nation’s atomic past.
“They hit geek culture and go viral,” said Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.
Early this year, Dr. Wellerstein posted on his blog and on Reddit, a social news site, an annotated silent movie a little more than 11 minutes long that showed scientists and soldiers preparing Fat Man and loading the weapon onto a B-29 aircraft that would soon take off for Nagasaki, Japan; the bombing instantly killed an estimated 40,000 people there.
The movie was viewed more than 100,000 times in just one day on Reddit, and received 700 comments. Among the posted questions: Did the men know what they were doing? Probably so, Dr. Wellerstein replied on his blog, “because they knew what had happened at Hiroshima.”A few years ago, the Los Alamos National Laboratory started posting historical pictures on Flickr, a photo-sharing site. The lab’s history section now has 515 images like early bombs and scientists and rapidly expanding fireballs and rising mushroom clouds. The set includes the gadget photograph from 1945 that left Mr. Coster-Mullen agog.
A recent wave of Internet photographs has featured Little Boy and Fat Man preparations; one shows a man signing the nose of the Nagasaki bomb, and another is a tail fin close-up of scrawled names and home states, including Wisconsin and New York.
Holly Reed, a photo expert at the National Archives, the source of those images, said they went public in 1997 but received much attention recently when they were widely described online as newly released.
The photographs released by LANL are placed in a section labeled “history”–but what a limited history, that is, with no awareness, no willingness to show awareness, of the human impact–including on residents of New Mexico. This NYT article itself seems content to point out “geek culture” and the Internet’s capacity to make these not-so-newly released images go viral.