Keeping secrets is never easy, especially when that secret happens to be an entire city of 75,000 people. But it’s been done. Case in point: the city of Oak Ridge, 23 miles northwest of Knoxville.

Built in secrecy in 1942 during World War II, Oak Ridge began when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purchased 59,000 acres of rural land in East Tennessee. The land would be developed into a town which, along with Los Alamos in New Mexico and Hanford in Washington state, would help produce the world’s first atomic weapons.

The American Museum of Science and Industry in Oak Ridge explores both the history behind the town and the science that led to its creation. The museum originally opened just a few years after the town itself, in 1949, in a cafeteria. It was then called the American Museum of Atomic Energy and took visitors through a tour focusing on the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The present facility opened in 1975. The museum’s name was changed to the American Museum of Science and Energy in 1978.

The museum explores both the scientific and technological aspects of Oak Ridge, as well as its historical role in World War II. For example, a 20-minute video presentation and a panorama of photos, historical documents and artifacts survey the Manhattan Project and the town’s formation. The upstairs Y-12 and National Defense exhibit examines the early history of one of Oak Ridge’s three plants. Also upstairs is the Life in the Secret City exhibit, which recreates the furnishings of the dormitories, offices and laboratories used in the project.

Elsewhere is the Earth’s Energy Resources display, which takes a look at the planet’s many energy resources, including coal, oil, geothermal, natural gas and hydropower. A cross-section model of a nuclear reactor and nuclear waste storage facility can be found in the World of the Atom.

Outside the museum, visitors can gaze on a World Trade Center memorial constructed from steel scrap metal. There’s also a solar power demonstration, a bio-energy crop demonstration and the Victory Garden, which memorializes the gardens families grew to produce nearly half of their vegetables during World War II.

Before leaving, you’ll want to stop by the Discovery Store. This gift shop sells unique gifts like Periodic Table mugs, Electric Plane Launchers and Robot Ducks, as well as books, hats and T-shirts.

The museum is at 300 S. Tulane Avenue in Oak Ridge. It can be reached from Knoxville by taking Pellissippi Parkway until it turns into Highway 62. The museum is open daily, closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The museum is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids age 6-17 and $4 for seniors. Group rates are available for parties of 20 or more. Visit or call 865-576-3200 for more information.

Attraction Details

Concessions Gift Shop Live Music Rides Cost Age
$ N/A


Day Opens Closes
Sunday 1 p.m. 5 p.m.
Monday 9 a.m. 5 p.m.
Tuesday 9 a.m. 5 p.m.
Wednesday 9 a.m. 5 p.m.
Thursday 9 a.m. 5 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. 5 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. 5 p.m.
Day Business Hours
Sunday 1 p.m.
5 p.m.
Monday 9 a.m.
5 p.m.
Tuesday 9 a.m.
5 p.m.
Wednesday 9 a.m.
5 p.m.
Thursday 9 a.m.
5 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m.
5 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m.
5 p.m.

Upcoming Events for American Museum of Science and Energy

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login