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Community:Atomic Energized

They added a new word to the Atomic Testing Museum. Now it’s the National Atomic Testing Museum. But that one word means a lot of changes for the museum dedicated to telling the story of American nuclear weapons testing. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid worked the national designation into the National Defense Authorization Act recently signed by President Obama.

The museum’s Executive Director Alan Palmer knows the word is loaded. “People say, ‘Okay, what’s in a name?’ When it comes to national museum designation, there are only 37 right now that are national museums,” he says. “It raises the bar. It means we’re not a local or regional museum anymore. Now we’re the nation’s story-keeper and storehouse for all things having to do with nuclear and weapons testing.” Hopefully that higher profile translates into more visitors and more donors.

[HEAR MORE: Author Ann Ronald discusses Nevada's atomic age on "KNPR's State of Nevada."]

Kathleen Frantz, the museum’s development director, adds, “We expect that with the extra exposure, we’ll be asked to take care of artifacts that people have regarding the history of nuclear testing. And, of course, it opens the door for federal funding.”

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The museum could use money to grow — and eventually move from its current location on Flamingo Road. That’s why it’s got an eye on the Cultural Corridor downtown. The museum’s new national status has already drawn the attention of one possible patron: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, whom Palmer said met with museum officials in December to discuss finding a home downtown. Now that would be a mushroom cloud.

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KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada