Interview with Dan Ostergaard

Dublin Core


Interview with Dan Ostergaard


An interview with Dan Ostergaard conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by the Mission Support Alliance and the United States Department of Energy.


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at, who can provide specific rights information for this item.



Date Modified

2018-26-2: Metadata v1 created – [A.H.]


The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are the primary contractors for the US Department of Energy's curatorial services relating to the Hanford site. This oral history project became a part of the Hanford History Project in 2015, and continues to add to this US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Franklin


Dan Ostergaard


Washington State University Tri-Cities


Robert Franklin: My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Dan Ostergaard on December 7th, 2016. The interview is being conducted on the campus on Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Dan about his experiences working at the Hanford Site. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?

Dan Ostergaard: Okay, my full name is Daniel Vernon Ostergaard. The last name is spelled O-S-T-E-R-G-A-A-R-D.

Franklin: Okay, and your first name?

Ostergaard: Dan. I go by Dan. Daniel, D-A-N-I-E-L.

Franklin: Okay. Great. When I was doing that boilerplate, I almost said December 7th, 1941.

Ostergaard. Me, too. Well, that’s in my—I still live World War II. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Oh. So, tell me how and why you came to the Hanford Site.

Ostergaard: Okay. I got interested in photography in junior high school in Kennewick. And back—that would have been, well, I graduated from high school in ’65.

Franklin: So you’re from the Tri-Cities, then.

Ostergaard: Right, I grew up in Kennewick.

Franklin: Okay, and when were you born?

Ostergaard: December 27th, 1946.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: So, I got interested in photography kind of through the chemistry class. I was a lab assistant, and the guy who was doing the yearbook needed somebody that’d shoot pictures. And I had done a little bit of stuff with my mom’s help at home, so that just sort of got the ball rolling. Did the usual school stuff, graduated Kennewick High School. And in high school, shot pictures for the yearbook. We had kind of a unique situation where the yearbook actually provided us the facilities, but they actually bought the pictures from us. So we were in essence a little business.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: We had our accounts down at the local drug store that had a photo counter. And it was a real good training thing. We were given assignments—the yearbook advisor was named Mr. Shields, and he said, I need a one-column-wide picture about four inches high and I want four faces in it. I don’t care what they’re doing. I just want four faces. They won’t buy the book unless their face is in it. So that was kind of the direction we were given, and it was up to us to figure it out. And after I finished high school, went to CBC. In high school, I also worked at a portrait lab named Dave Studio in Kennewick, in the back processing film and prints and doing all the things you do. And continued that at CBC. I had my own stuff shooting on the side. And then I went to WSU in Pullman for two years. Through that time, I had worked two summers for the Hanford photo group. One summer in the Federal Building, and one summer in 300 Area in 3705 Building. It was Vietnam era. I enlisted, went in for two-and-a-half years. Got an early out when they were winding down. I called up my boss, Lance Michael, and I said, hey, I’m getting out of the service; you got any work? And he kind of said, when can you be here? I said, in a month? Okay, you’re hired. That was the interview. Of course, I’d interviewed for two summers prior, in essence. [LAUGHTER] So I started doing lab tech work, just kind of whatever was needed to be done. The reason that was so attractive, because the Hanford photo group was like Disneyland. There was everything there somebody with my background could aspire to want. We had the ability to do all the photo processes. We had very competent photographers. They were hired mostly out of Brooks Institute down in Santa Barbara. We called them Brookies. The lab people sort of saved the Brookies a lot, we thought. [LAUGHTER] After I got out of the service, we had just opened up the photo lab in 3706—they’d moved it from the old wood lab building at 3705. Went over there, and then just kind of evolved into doing higher, higher level things. The photo group had three different photo labs at the time. One in the Federal Building, one in the basement of the ROB, the Battelle building, and then one in 300 Area. They had all evolved for a specific purpose. The Federal Building lab was to keep the AEC/DOE people connected. The ROB lab was just directly for supporting Battelle at the time. They had just gotten the contract in, I think, ’64.

Franklin: What does ROB stand for?

Ostergaard: Research Operations Building.

Franklin: Research Operations Building, okay.

Ostergaard: Yeah, and then 300 Area, we did all kinds of things. And this was all pre-computer era. So we had—different labs did specific things. The color was done initially in the Federal Building. The ROB was pretty much black-and-white and copy work. And we did big enlarging and things like that. So some things, the jobs had to move back and forth to each lab’s specialty. So we actually had a courier who started at the Federal Building, picked up stuff and dropped off on the way out.

Camera man: I need to interrupt this. I don’t think this is moving. I don’t see any numbers changing or anything.

Ostergaard: [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Really?

Jillian Gardner-Andrews: Oh no.

Camera man: It’s bothering me.


Franklin: …records digital, so I don’t—

Camera man: Well, keep going. Let’s—I guess--

Ostergaard: [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: He’ll get better a second time. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: So you’re saying that each lab had its own specialty—

Ostergaard: Right.

Franklin: And that there was a courier.

Ostergaard: Right, right. And because each lab was separate, and there wasn’t a computer, the cloud, or anything like that, everybody had their own numbering system.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: Which has led to complications to this day.

Franklin: Tell me about it.

Ostergaard: [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: I process a lot of photos from onsite and it’s always very confusing as to why some are stamped 300 Area, why some are stamped Battelle, why some are stamped 700 Area, and this is—I want you to go into this in detail for me.

Ostergaard: Okay, so, well, we’ll do that numbering thing then. If you see anything like with a 2-digit and then like an A or a B or a C and then three digits afterwards, those are from the ROB lab.

Franklin: Sorry, two-digit, ABC, and then three numbers?

Ostergaard: Yeah, the idea—first of the year, they would start out at A, and then run with the numbers, you know, the first two digits? So you could look at that. The first two was the year, always. And the second one was just an arbitrary A, and then if it ran through 999, they went to B and upward. The Federal Building numbers started out pretty much as four-digit numbers. And that was a carryover from the GE photo lab days. Some of those things I still never have figured out what they did. And then 300 Area just started out with the year, 7, 8, whatever. And then generally they’d run four digits. It got to be later on they would run five because they were running out of space. And then in 1992, we had our own computer system written, so it kind of linked up. Those dates always started with the first of the year and then the month, you know, 01. And then there was three digits after that. So by looking at those numbers, if you see an 89 blah, blah, blah, you’d know that was shot in 1989.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: So that was some of the numbering systems. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: And then there were other—we supported some of the metallurgical labs and things who had their own thing going on also. So we supported a lot of specialty labs in the 300 Area, doing things then. So we would process film for them, make prints, and give them back everything. We were doing fuel studies where they would take fuel pins from bundles that had been through the reactor process, and in the 327 Building, section them remotely—because they’re screaming hot—and usually those things were about the diameter of a pencil. So they’d slice that across. And then through periscopes, using 70 millimeter film and Hasselblad cameras is actually shoot like an aerial mosaic of that thing at 75x or 125x magnification. We would process that film, print it on a machine printer 2x, and then literally mosaic them together. So you’d end up with like a large pizza. And that would show the cladding and then what had happened to the fuel inside. These things were fairly important. They spent a lot of money making them, so—

Franklin: Right. That sounds like very technical work.

Ostergaard: Well it was, yeah. We had at all levels. From the PR thing to the technical part. And you supported a lot of engineers for reports. We did a lot of what would be promotional stuff now for people to go back to DC and whatever, for pushing their project to get funds. In addition to—and then of course just reprinting. Negatives were in the file. And that was the other part of the problem with the negatives, is they were retired, not in any systematic order, they were just—when the lab ran out of space, we’d box up five cabinets’ worth of negatives, send them off to storage—you know, with the transmittal. But still—and then it got complicated—well, you know, I say, all this sounds silly, but it was all at the time very rational. You can’t judge—[LAUGHTER] They were doing good, actually, for what they were doing. But the specific photographers tended to work out of specific labs. Because we usually had seven or eight full-time photographers going at that time. And some of these guys were more specialized in technical things, and some of them were more people-oriented. And so, you had to kind of assign the right type of personality to the job. You didn’t want to assign a technical person to go out and shoot a PR thing somewhere. That would get you in trouble. [LAUGHTER] They just weren’t groomed for that.

Franklin: Right.

Ostergaard: [LAUGHTER] We had—along those lines—you know, the thing we had a difficulty with in hiring is we would—we were looking for pretty high-end lab tech people, too. So a lot of these folks would be coming out of Brooks with all this money they’ve spent training, and they couldn’t get a photo job. So we would hire them, but we’d caution them all the time—this is not going to lead to a photo job. We’re hiring you to do this technical thing. A few of them evolved over, and it was very frustrating for some folks who—I’m not doing what I want to do. But we already have—you know. So there’s always that line [LAUGHTER] of doing that. And again, back then, we were self-contained. The security was much tighter—I don’t know if you’ve went out to Energy Northwest lately or anything, or if you’ve ever been there, where they’re looking under your car with mirrors and all kinds of things. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, our security was pretty tight.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: The photographers, on the badge, they had the areas listed in a grid, the areas they had access to. So it was pretty tight, and we were playing TSA going in the gates at that point. We got so you just put your lunch in a plastic bag and just walk by and hold it up. It wasn’t metal detectors, but it was security. So that led to interesting things. The 300 Area lab was the largest, and we probably had the most people of any of them. We did pretty much our own maintenance. These were all chemical processes that needed to be maintained. So there was a great deal of quality control work going on, of running test strips and reading them and adjusting the chemistries. And just the simple things of inventory. We had a phenomenal—we had pretty much one person, that’s all they did was inventory. You know, ordering stuff, seeing that it was in, and then basically rotating the stock, so that we were using the oldest first. There was a lot of stuff going on. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: So you worked mostly at the 300?

Ostergaard: Right.

Franklin: Okay, and then how many people worked at that operation?

Ostergaard: Probably, 20, 25.

Franklin: Oh, wow, okay.

Ostergaard: Yeah. And the ROB was smaller—I’d say it was about four.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Ostergaard: And the Federal Building, they did the color and they could also—everybody could do black-and-white; that was just by default. And that was probably more like a dozen. And then there was a video—motion picture group down there also. At probably the height of everything, we were probably running 62 people. And during FFTF construction, we were doing a shift-and-a-half, basically.

Franklin: And that would just be documenting the construction?

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah. And then all the other stuff. Because everything that had to do with FFTF was a huge project. It wasn’t just building the facility you see, the white dome out there. There was a high bay in 300 Area, all kinds of research on—oh my god, it was huge. And so there was people busy all the time doing that. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Okay. Did you have much contact with the video people?

Ostergaard: Not a whole lot.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Ostergaard: That was kind of a different world.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Ostergaard: There was also kind of the contention—not necessarily nasty—between the labs.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: There was always a bit of tension there, that—ah, them dummies they screwed up again, so we got to run down there. There was a lot of that stuff going on.

Franklin: Like kind of like a friendly competition?

Ostergaard: Pretty much. Mostly friendly. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Mostly friendly? Did you know anybody that worked at the other labs or in the video group that’s still around that might want to talk to us?

Ostergaard: Let me think that through.

Franklin: Okay. We just--our collection—sorry, go ahead.

Ostergaard: No, I was going to say—yeah, I’m just thinking. Because I think Bud Mace is gone. Don Brauer’s gone. Yeah, it’s really thinned out. Thinned out everywhere. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: As happens. We have several hundred videos in our collection.

Ostergaard: Right.

Franklin: So it would be interesting to talk to somebody about that. Why they filmed certain—because some of them are very interesting films of processes and—so it’s kind of—

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah. They were highly technical. We had a technical person who was just in charge of doing extremely technical things. He was out of RIT. And he did some fabulous stuff. I always enjoyed hanging around Roland.

Franklin: RIT?

Ostergaard: Rochester Institute, yeah. And, again, it was—we had to support ourselves. There was no FedEx in the day. And not getting something done because something broke was not an excuse. That was not acceptable. So you always had at least two or three ways of getting something done. That was—and we always did come through; we had a reputation for that.

Franklin: How long did you work at the 300 Area lab?

Ostergaard: Pretty much—well, the last year—it was probably 25, 30 years straight.

Franklin: So you started in ’72, right?

Ostergaard: Yeah.

Franklin: So you would have gone into the early—late ‘90s, early 2000s.

Ostergaard: Something like that. Well, there was a migration. Everything wound down. As things closed down, the ROB lab was closed first.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: We moved that activity out to 300 Area.

Franklin: And do you know roughly when that was?

Ostergaard: Oh, I hate telling it wrong. ’78, something like that. And as things tightened up a little bit more, we actually closed down the Federal Building lab, which was on the third floor. Much to the happiness of the computer people, because there were leaks on the third floor out of all these processors. We had catch pans and stuff under everything.

Franklin: Oh, the chemical—

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah, these are all wet processes. Nothing digital there.

Franklin: And do you know when the Fed—

Ostergaard: God, again, that’s just kind of murky. It’s—

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: You know, the big change happened for us when the contract changed in about ’87 or ’88.

Franklin: And that was from Westinghouse—

Ostergaard: Well, we were actually Battelle.

Franklin: You were Battelle, okay.

Ostergaard: Right. And the contract changed—consolidation, they liked to call it. We ended up getting transferred over to Boeing. Most of the service groups went as a package to Boeing. And then when Boeing came out and Lockheed came in, then we all were moved to Lockheed. So, as it wound down, we had a couple of pretty big layoffs where you just feel like a survivor the day it’s done, when they lay off twelve people in your group and there’s four of you left. Stuff like that. [LAUGHTER] So we kept plugging away out there, and then they finally found enough money to make us go digital.

Franklin: That’s good—I was going to ask about that. What year was that?

Ostergaard: Let’s see, I’m trying to think of what machines we were using. We were in the Apple side of the world at that point. And, you know, 7200 Mac or something was pretty jazzy at the time. [LAUGHTER] You know? So again, those dates are just—I could probably do some thinking on that, but I’d just hate to say something specific. But as we wound down, then they decided that we were too big of an expense to be in 3706. So we ended up moving down to the Snyder Building. This was under Lockheed. And set up shop down there. And of course, I was always—by that time, I had migrated my work into more doing archival stuff. I kind of just created that, in a way. I got tired of people asking for stuff that I knew we had, that nobody could find.

Franklin: Right.

Ostergaard: And so I just started—in the time when I didn’t have anything better to do, I just literally started going through the drawers. And that kind of got me the bug. [LAUGHTER] So my intention was to make a three-ring binder with Hanford’s 100 greatest pictures. That was my first goal. Well, that pretty quickly evolved into about 35 or 40 binders—

Franklin: Yeah, I was going to say, that’d be kind of—

Ostergaard: Yeah, well you didn’t realize what you were up against, you know. So you get to the point where you say, okay, I’ve got enough stuff here to make a collection of each of the reactor areas. So there’d be the 100-B book, there’d be the—you know. And do that. And then as a spin-off I would do aerials. Wherever I’d had enough stuff to organize, I would make another binder. And then, oh, about around 2000, when Hazel Leary was head of the Department of Energy, she was due in for this great opening up of all the information. And they started a project at DDRS—

Franklin: DDRS?

Ostergaard: Yes. And that worked out of the library there at 300 Area. They had, I think, five or six derivative de-classifiers. And they had a couple of students out there. Their goal was to scan 100 negatives a day. And they would arbitrarily take a storage box—have you ever seen a storage box? A real Hanford box?

Franklin: No, I don’t know if I’ve seen a Hanford box.

Ostergaard: Okay, well, most of these things early on—most everything was four-by-five negatives. So it was a half-cubic-foot box about yea high with a top that comes off. And then inside, there’d be rows, and there’d be a manila envelope with glassines, mostly, where there’d be a date and stuff written on them. And that was kind of—you got the date range to and from. And they started out and they did about 55 boxes. I don’t know how they were necessarily selected. But they did that. And the first box they did, they came down to us and wanted to see how they were doing. We had a higher-end scanner than they did. They were running off $150 scanners at the time, which was basically trash.

Franklin: Yeah, really low DPI.

Ostergaard: Yeah, you see some of those things now, those really crappy looking things. That was out at that project.

Franklin: Like 400k-size image files, if you’re lucky.

Ostergaard: Yeah, right.

Franklin: We get requests about images that people find online and they’re like, do you have a higher version of that? And I was like, that was scanned in 2002. Like, you know, sorry.

Ostergaard: Well, that’s the disconnect now. And they keep talking about getting me out there to help put some of that to bed and maybe leave a better trail than we did. It’s—yeah. [LAUGHTER] It’s an art to find some of that stuff.

Franklin: I bet.

Ostergaard: And you can’t do it—I don’t know what the mechanism is—I’ve been out of there now two-and-a-half years. So I don’t know if there’s anything in place. But I had pretty much, at the time, looking for things, I had the ability to request boxes endlessly. And so what I would do was I would get out my notebooks and stuff with all the transmittals and all my little notes I had made on the side. I had hand-written sheets for every time I’d order a box. And this went on for years. I would note the box and the date, and then I would look for what I wanted. But then anything else that was interesting in there, I would go ahead and make a note of it so I could backtrack a little bit. And that’s what I hope—that stuff hasn’t been disrupted too badly that it can’t get in there and say, this is golden. It looks awful, but this will really save you. [LAUGHTER] So, that takes a lot of dead-ends, but it also leads you to discoveries. And there was always the push to put more stuff into iDMS. My project for four years, one of the clerks, name of Bonnie Campo and I, pretty much, we did 20,000 a year into ARMIS, the database at the time. The selection process—that was my call. We’d literally start going through the files, and anything to do with helping the site be cleaned up, remediated, construction—all that was golden stuff. So that was the selection process for that. And then if I found—and I kind of took it upon myself—there were some culturally significant things, I’d put those in, too. So I would scan them, I’d transfer them to Bonnie, she would upload them with appropriate information. So we did 20,000 a year, so we did 80,000.

Franklin: Wow. What do you—can you expand on culturally significant things?

Ostergaard: Well, things like back in the ‘50s, where they would have pensioners’ dinners. They celebrated the employees. They weren’t disposable. They were treated with much more respect—this is all my personal stuff. [LAUGHTER] But it was celebrated more. And then also, up until ’58, ’59, the City of Richland was a company town.

Franklin: Yeah.

Ostergaard: Basically owned by GE. And they documented all kinds of cool stuff. So, a lot of that would go in. And just things like the first house being sold. And things like that. And then just the culture—the pictures of the safety prizes. If everybody—the thermoses and things. And then probably not socially appropriate things anymore of get some gal up on a ladder for Friday the 13th holding a broken mirror. And just stuff like that. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Any idea where those—where do those pictures live now, or those negatives? Do they—

Ostergaard: Oh! It’s all at 3212, the newest records—

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Ostergaard: Yeah, that’s pretty much where everything is, that I know about. And I’ve tried the damnedest to find everything. It gets to be a challenge. [LAUGHTER] But those first ones they did, that was where what we dubbed the DuPont Collection came out of and the GE Collection. Those first five boxes were the D numbers, the P numbers. Those were, of course, the most interesting ones, and that caught my eye right now. And then ultimately when they were asking, what could we do—national archives, they want stuff from us; we’ve never given them anything. And by that time I’d kind of rescanned a lot of the what I call the D numbers, the DuPont ones, just because they were very, very useful.

Franklin: Is that what the D stands for, then, on that?

Ostergaard: Okay, okay, let me go through that. There’s a set of numbers—or prefixes. D stood for Determinant, of all things. I found down, when the CREHST Museum was still operating, I had enough leeway, I would go down and kind of mine their resources. And I found the memo one day that directed from somebody in Delaware that they wanted this thing photographically copied, and it set the parameters for each eight-by-tens of each shot and to show construction progress. So there was the P number which was progress. D was determinant. There’s a few Es, which were emergencies. That wasn’t used too much. There was S for safety. And there was M for meteorological. I think I got them all. And the D ones—well, of course the P is progress, and what they generally did for—I mean, down to outhouses almost. They would shoot every couple of weeks or whenever something significant happened, shoot that. So you can combine those into collections of a particular building being built down to small little workshops and things. I found that memo down there, and then I found the part that is really the key to that thing, is there were—since everything was automatically classified at some level, just by nature of it existing, it was classified. And they had to move these around to get things made or whatever. So since it was classified, there had to be a transmittal for every time it moved. So here were these onionskin sheets that listed a set of numbers. And it said, okay, this was D such-and-such, taken on such-and-such a day, and this is what it was. That was just part of the security routine. So there was the marker that described that image by default.

Franklin: Right, yeah, the metadata kind of—

Ostergaard: Right, exactly.

Franklin: Produced in an ancillary process to—

Ostergaard: Right, so I kind of went, oh, how about this! [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Yeah, that’s something.

Ostergaard: So I handwrote some notebooks just so I could find that stuff easier. And—oh, also, what happened—there was a lady before I ever—I never even met her, name of Flo. She was the archival records genius lady. She could find anything. Flo Unterhagen, I believe her name was. And there was somebody in the ‘70s had taken all of those DuPont negatives. They looked kind of like—from the surface—like they’d kind of lived a rough life. Like they had probably just been thrown in boxes and stuff. And somebody organized those into the storage boxes, each with an individual manila envelope and the number on the outside, and that was about it. But somebody had organized that. Somewhere in the ‘70s, near as I can tell. And then the other—the GE ones were dubbed the Flo Five. Those were very significant. Because that was building up to the Cold War stuff. So that was the second project that I suggested to them. The first one was actually what we dubbed the Settler Collection. When I was doing my work for getting those 80,000 in there, I kept coming up with pictures of people prior to Hanford.

Franklin: Right, the residents in the towns of White Bluffs and Hanford.

Ostergaard: Right, so I kind of got the bug at that point. And some of the folks I knew—Annette Heriford, I knew her from—she worked in the photo group.

Franklin: Really?

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah!

Franklin: I didn’t—

Ostergaard: Yeah, Annette, yeah.

Franklin: We just recently got the collection of Harry Anderson.

Ostergaard: [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: A lot of his photos and things.

Ostergaard: Good old Harry! [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: But we’ve been going through those, and I know that he worked with Annette and with the White Bluffs and Hanford Reunion--

Ostergaard: Right.

Franklin: Organization.

Ostergaard: So I went to the last five or six of those things, and almost was accepted. But I did work for the government, so that automatically made me suspicious. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Oh, right.

Ostergaard: Harry was a piece of work. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: I’ve heard!

Ostergaard: Yeah, one time, on one of the tours, we all went out on a bus. And I come out, and what I did—I had the van, the photo van, and I had some composite, big map things I’d made. We had the ability to mount and laminate and everything. So I would show up with the van, would hang these things around the side of the van just as talking points for these people, and that would get the conversations going. They’d start to look at that and go, oh, well there’s my place, and then off you go. Cool stuff. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: That’s really neat.

Ostergaard: And so Harry was out there one day, had the van, and he was trying to—he said, you know, you’ve got a van here, how about we go over here and look at something? And I was going, ehh, I’ve got to get back to town. It’s like, I don’t want to get loose with Harry! [LAUGHTER] Get in all kinds of trouble. But, yeah, he was something else.

Franklin: And he also worked for—

Ostergaard: He was a security type.

Franklin: The Project.

Ostergaard: Yeah, oh, god, yeah. Well the rumors I’d hear was he’d hang around in bars, basically, and if people were talking too much, get them called in for—he was something else. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Wow, he was one of the—it’s just so interesting that he’s this transitional figure between White Bluffs and then—

Ostergaard: Yeah. Well he was in the right position, and probably rogue enough to—

Franklin: Yeah.

Ostergaard: [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: And then you said Annette worked for the photo group, okay. Did you she work for your photo group?

Ostergaard: She was down in the Federal Building. And so we always got along real well. She was a stickler. I’d show her stuff, and boy, if she thought that date was wrong, she was on your case like—[LAUGHTER] But so when they said, what can we give to the National Archives? I said, well, I’ve been collecting up these images, and I know a lot about them. And there are about 200 of them. So, we did the whole process as a trial thing, and pulled retired negatives out of our files to them and kind of learned the whole process. And it got a lot of nice press, and that’s what they wanted. They were making progress. And that went so well, they said, well, what next? And I said, well, we’ve got all this stuff DuPont shot. We’ve pretty well got it all scanned into our files. We’ve kind of got all the information out of it we’re going to need. So, we went ahead then and retired those over there. Which, again, was great for everybody concerned. It’s nice to kind of get them over there. I think it was five boxes, six boxes. And then the third series we did was GE—kind of the same thing, again. So we got a little more sophisticated each time. And then also the ability of iDMS to take file sizes got better each time. We were kind of held down to, oh, ten-meg JPEG compressed at first. And they would only take JPEGs. And then by the time we got to GE, it was like, well, pretty much just send us anything you want. Which was just the evolution of the whole thing. So I was making pretty good-sized scans.

Franklin: And is that how—so, I’m a little confused. Did you send the originals to NARA, or did you send the scans to NARA?

Ostergaard: No, they didn’t want anything to do with digital; they wanted the physical stuff.

Franklin: But you scanned the originals and put them into iDMS.

Ostergaard: Right, yeah.

Franklin: Oh, so is that still in iDMS, to your knowledge?

Ostergaard: Yeah! If you get ahold of somebody who can get you to the collections, it’s under the GE collection or the DuPont collection.

Franklin: Because we have access to iDMS.

Ostergaard: Okay, now it’s not—things are hardly ever taken out of iDMS, so you do a D number or something, you might come up with the old, nasty scan, you might come up with the one we put in.

Franklin: Okay, I’ll make sure to look at the file type and size.

Ostergaard: Yeah, because that’s—it’s a quirky thing to use. ARMIS, its predecessor for photos, was much better. And what we did a lot of—the folks—and this is what I learned—when they were doing their initial work on the DuPont stuff, they were making their best guesses to what it was they were looking at. Because they didn’t—they just had a negative and an envelope. And so a lot of those were way off. So Bonnie and I—if you had spare time, you’d just go, show me everything from 1952 or something. And they migrated all the stuff over from the Battelle system into ARMIS system. Of course, the things never fit the right boxes. And so we kind of just reworked the information—we had the ability to do that. Put structure in the structure box, and maybe leave the title. Because a lot of times they would write the title with the structure in it. So, it was—again, it was kind of an art form. [LAUGHTER] To define stuff. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Right, I’m totally aware.

Ostergaard: You’re finding that out.

Franklin: Well, I’ve been in archives for a little while, so I’ve seen—

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah. Well I had the big battle with the GE thing. They wanted to change the filename around to suit their system which then totally destroyed the providence of the damn negative. It just—ugh. [LAUGHTER] So, every time you do a move, you lose something, pretty much.

Franklin: Oh, yeah.

Ostergaard: And what we did for GE by then—security—we’d kind of gotten really in tune with security folks and their concerns. They wanted to know what we’d sent off. A lot of times, they were more concerned about the envelope than the negative.

Franklin: Right, because the envelope has the information and description.

Ostergaard: Right. By the time we got down to the GE stuff, I was overscanning the negative. I was scanning—put it on the flatbed and scan outside the boundaries of the actual negative itself. So they could see whatever had been written in the boundaries. I wasn’t cropping or doing anything like that. I was all about giving you the whole package.

Franklin: Right, because you can also crop that out later.

Ostergaard: Later, right. See, that’s what—you can’t put it back. I’ve always looked at is as me being the intermediary in this process, for somebody like me 30 years from now. I don’t want to box them in—I learned that real quick. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: It’s so refreshing to talk with somebody who understands--

Ostergaard: Yeah.

Franklin: The basics and things like provenance and—

Ostergaard: Yeah. Because things tie together later.

Franklin: Yeah, they do. And you need that if you’re coming at it without that institutional knowledge.

Ostergaard: Oh, my. Well, then, the other thing, I’m sure you’ve discovered it by now, is like the DuPont final report. The four-volume—

Franklin: [inaudible]

Ostergaard: Oh, boy. Okay, DuPont published, probably in February or March of ’45, what they called their final report. It’s four volumes, 1,500 pages where they do an incredibly good job of describing what they did without saying a damn word about what they did.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: Or what it was for.

Franklin: Right, that sounds—

Ostergaard: That thing is—that, and Groves’ diaries if you can stand—not Groves, Matthias’ diaries—those things. But I’ll get you the Hanford numbers for those DuPont things. Because that is a treasure trove. Once you get in there and start reading, you realize they did everything for a purpose and a reason.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: It was—and a lot of it—and then there’s some very miscellaneous other reports that link pictures to things that are—but that DuPont report gives you an incredible insight.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: Into what they did. Yeah, that’s—when I finally discovered that, I was going, oh, my god. It was so fun over the years, you kept having these—oh my god, I know what this is for. [LAUGHTER] It just evolved, you know, more and more into me doing archival things and less and less the other. Of course, I carried a big footprint around because I had all these negatives attached to me. And so we moved to Snyder, we actually had to have the floor reinforced where these—these are great big fireproof safes. So to get them down there—and I had them all fitted in, and then we were there for several years and then they wanted to move us to the Garlick Building over here. And so they’d give me a room to put stuff in, and then as we got it over there, the movers got all the cabinets moved in there, and then the powers that be decided, no, we don’t want to file the negatives here. We want to use this room for storing our junk or something. So, that was rather traumatic that day. [LAUGHTER] So I ended up putting my stuff in moving boxes around the hall in various places, and I was still working out of them. What I did when I was unloading the drawers, I color-coded each file cabinet. I had a number for each cabinet, and then a little chip of paper that corresponded to that. And then I would start a drawer one, box one, drawer one, box two, right on down the row. Finally, after a year or two of that, they ended up moving me down to the 712 Building, which is now where they’re building the new—across from the Richland Library where they’re building the new City Hall. That was the original records place, built in ’51 or ’52. It was just a big concrete bunker, basically. [LAUGHER] Which is a really cool place. So I ended up getting moved into there in some space. The print people—the union print shop was still there at the time, so it was me and them. And I loved that place; it was just Hanford from the ‘50s. It hadn’t changed a bit. We stayed in there, and of course that was a very expensive building to maintain because it was all full of asbestos and that kind of stuff. So that’s when we ended up getting moved to 3212 and they were building 3220 to store the collection. So that’s where I got out there with all my stuff again. So I had, like I say, this huge footprint carrying these negatives around. [LAUGHTER] And that was a great place to work for an archivist. It was in the back of the building, back with all the pipes and everything. Nobody bothered you; you were just back there doing your thing. It was great.

Franklin: And so how long did you—you don’t still work out there?

Ostergaard: No.

Franklin: No, and when did you finally retire?

Ostergaard: Well, they asked me to leave two-and-a-half years ago. One of those. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: One of those early retirement, or kind of--?

Ostergaard: Yeah, it was like—hi? You’d walk in there, the human resources lady is there. Like, okay, I know what this is. It’s like, okay, don’t blow it. [LAUGHTER] Just make nice. Nothing good will come out of anything other than being nice. So that was two-and-a-half years ago. So what you’re seeing me now doing is volunteer work. I got connected up with Colleen and stuff. And I still thrive on doing this stuff. That’s why I’m doing it.

Franklin: Great.

Ostergaard: I love access. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Yeah. And so you still have your clearance and everything to get in there?

Ostergaard: Nope. Well, see, that’s all B Reactor, see, it’s open to the public.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Ostergaard: I’ll do it again coming up this year. The Russians come over for their reactor inspection tour, PPRA, yearly. That’s a treaty that we signed with them in late ‘90s, I think it was. We inspect each other’s reactors to see what’s happening and make sure that, one, we’re not making plutonium, and two, they are because they’re dual-purpose reactors, what they’re doing with it, apparently. So I was doing that for five or six years before. And I found it quite fascinating. It’s something you have to be respectful and careful. We duplicate the picture we shot the year prior for their report they make. If the building still exists. And now it’s getting down to a little bit of 100-K West and B Reactor. So I’ve really—the PNNL folks like it because I’ve done it enough, they—Battelle knows me; the Russians know me. And everybody likes that uniformity. So that’s a fun thing to do, for me. And that one, again, you get a temporary badge where we’re going. I truck along. And do different pictures real quick for them, and then we have a final banquet where they sign the report and everything. That’s always quite interesting.

Franklin: Oh, yeah, I bet.

Ostergaard: It’s really cool. They love to toast everything. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Yes, they do.

Ostergaard: It takes a while.

Franklin: Yeah, I’ve been to Eastern Europe. Toasts are a way of life.

Ostergaard: Oh, god. So anyway, I’m still doing that and I’m looking forward to doing more of that.

Franklin: That’s really great. How did you get involved with BRMA, the B Reactor Museum Association?

Ostergaard: Well, it was kind of after I quit working out there regular. These guys, I was aware of them, you know. And so one of them called me up and said, you know, we’re looking for something. And everybody’s always calling me, looking for something. He said, you know, you ought to join. And I said, well, I probably should just to keep my hand in things. So that’s kind of how I became connected with it. And it’s really neat to sit in a room where there’s twenty guys who really knew their stuff. It’s something else, to have that ability. So I’ve been doing that. And then of course, I hear of things coming down the road and kind of watched the national park thing develop, and getting involved with Colleen. Every once in a while I have to remind her: you got something coming up, do you need pictures? Oh, yeah. [LAUGHTER] But that was the way out there. We always, especially when we were working for Lockheed. Lockheed was working on getting the MSA contract. So they were in the full PR, look how good a company we are, you should have us do the contract thing. So we were doing all kinds of stuff, back, again, ten years ago, things weren’t as tight as they are now. So our display group was actually making all kinds of display stuff for Lockheed Corporate under Linda Goodman. She grew her outfit quite large, but we went along for that ride. So we had people to go just do nothing but do displays and take them out. That was not a Hanford-related thing, but it was—we kind of had the ability to do all kinds of stuff. Which has always be exciting to be involved with something like that.

Franklin: Right, to make some things from site-specific to like more PR.

Ostergaard: And of course everything couldn’t be done fast enough. And you learn there that when they want it, they want it, but they don’t think they want it. So you have to sort of manage your managers in a way. You have to be ready to—well, they haven’t asked yet, but you know they’re going to want. You just learn after you get—

Franklin: How was the transition to digital photography for you as a photographer and someone that works—and an archivist—I’m kind of curious as to how you’ve managed that transition.

Ostergaard: Well, for some reason it was much harder than it should have been to get the digital equipment. Somehow it got involved with the printing people and how much elaborate stuff they go through to buy equipment. And we had people high up go, how in the hell is this taking so long? You just go buy some computers. But it’d somehow gotten into somewhere where you had to write things of why this would be good, and—ugh. It just drug on interminably. So we did—on the computer part, we had—the film scanner was always kind of a difficult thing, because they just weren’t that good at the time. And we’d always kind of prided ourselves in doing good things, exceptional things. Well, that’s when the thing I should mention of the evolution of film sizes. Four-by-five was kind of the standard from the ‘40s. When I came out there, I had to have the fortune, through our little business arrangements at the high school—I was making money, actually—and I needed a camera to shoot. Because they weren’t giving me anything. So I ended up buying a Hasselblad of all things in 1965.

Franklin: That’s an expensive—for a high schooler--

Ostergaard: The list price was 600 bucks.

Franklin: Yeah, that’s like a car.

Ostergaard: And the local photo camera down there, the guy, he knew I was looking for one and I was a regular. He said, well, he said, you know, if you can keep your mouth shut, I’ve had this Hasselblad way too long here in my inventory. He said, it cost me 435 bucks. I’ll sell it to you for my cost to move it. So I got it at a discount. I still have it. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Wow. Well, those are cameras that you—I mean, you pass those down.

Ostergaard: Oh, god, yeah. So I’ve still got all the stuff. So I was kind of primed up and then I started working summers out there. And then you see all the real—the stuff you see at magazines here, it is in front of you. So as it evolved, when I went out there, they weren’t shooting Speed Graphics, they were shooting Linhof Technikas. Big, huge, gorgeous cameras. Heavy as—and then there were view cameras, too, because of just the technical stuff that they did. And then it kind of evolved into two-and-a-quarter roll film, which was principally a Hasselblad with a set of lenses. Everybody had one. Everybody pretty much had a Technika setup, they had view cameras, and they had the Hasselblads. And 35 millimeter was considered miniature, and it was only for shooting slides, pretty much. And that kept on, and some of the illustrator types in Battelle wanted to have that editorial look so they would go shoot black-and-white. So they’d get the grain look and all that stuff. But the thing of choice was two-and-a-quarter roll film. And then of course it evolved from black-and-white and then the color started slipping in there. They were shooting some color sheet film, and it seemed like the preferred way at that point was transparencies first. And there are still some of those floating around in the files. And then it would move over into 50/50 black-and-white. Sometimes they’d go out and shoot black-and-white and color at the same assignment if they had the time. Sometimes you were moving around, you couldn’t do that. But they still wanted black-and-white prints versus color, because color was considered premium cost. So to make it look like you were not wasting money, you had it done in black-and-white. I’ve had people tell me that I don’t care what it costs, but I don’t want it to look like I spent any money. [LAUGHTER] You know, you’re out there, you just roll with whatever—and that’s part of the key to my being there so long, was I was quite flexible in going with whatever. You could do—so anyway, it evolved into roll film. And then we finally, on the digital thing, when we finally got this block of equipment, I think they bought two Nikon D1s. Which, probably your cell phone now would—[LAUGHTER] But we had all the Nikon stuff, so it was a natural to go with that, because the lenses still were compatible. And that was the beauty of that. We always were Nikon out there, just because we had massive amounts of lenses and everything.

Franklin: That’s why I always buy Canons, because I just inherited Canons.

Ostergaard: That’s what you do. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel there. So that’s kind of how that evolved. And you can see that. And also you can see the quantities of negatives shot increase with the smaller film. Sheet film, you’re pretty—there’s a lot of work involved loading holders and processing and everything. And then when you get to roll film, well, hell, there’s twelve on a roll. So you shoot them all.

Franklin: And then now in the digital age, you’re just limited by—

Ostergaard: I’ll go out to B Reactor, you figure that’s 300 shots, easy, without even thinking about it. And you give somebody 25.

Franklin: Yeah.

Ostergaard: [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: It’s a different—which is also I think a challenge for archivists moving forward is—

Ostergaard: Oh, I know.

Franklin: The amount of stuff we produce in the digital world is greater.

Ostergaard: And how much of that stuff I’ve been giving you—well, I’ll give you the raw and what I gave the customer, but then here’s the other 250 which I can’t bring myself to throw away, unfortunately. [LAUGHTER] You just never know.

Franklin: So, did your parents work for Hanford at all?

Ostergaard: Nope! [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Okay, so you were the first one.

Ostergaard: Well, what happened—all my uncles and ultimately my dad, they were all in the service in World War II. This is all from Nebraska. They had had a rough time in the Depression. They’d lost the farms. They were traveling around before the war, picking fruit, doing whatever. They’d been out here before the war. My grandma’s sister was out here with—and they had her—the family farm they had was a typical chicken and eggs and fruit and alfalfa—everything, a truck farm. And so after the war, they all decided that it was time to get out of Nebraska. So in all their travels they had decided this was the good spot to go. I was born in ’46—essentially ’47, and I think they came out in ’48 and settled right when the Cold War was starting to ramp up. So there was plenty of employment. The family had always been carpenters and the like, and Dad, he had carpentry experience and working in lumberyards and stuff. It’s kind of my joke out of Caddyshack is he ended up right in the lumberyard. Of all the places you could work in here, he never made an attempt to get on at Hanford. He was working various lumberyards around and wholesale hardware and stuff like that. My other uncle did get involved in it, so. But, yeah, so that’s how it come to be. And Mom, she finally—she was secretary for First Lutheran Church. And again there, you’ve probably picked up, there was—then especially—sort of an animosity against Richland from Pasco and Kennewick.

Franklin: Can you talk about that a little bit? Because that’s—I think that’s very interesting.

Ostergaard; Well, you know, the perception was—especially because Richland was a company town at first. They were renting these places, in essence. So GE was the landlord. Everybody worked—Pasco, Kennewick, they were their own. So it’s like, well, they need a lightbulb changed, they just call somebody up and the company come change the lightbulb. Just all that kind of stuff. Locally, I totally, growing up in Kennewick, benefited from Hanford bigtime. Because a lot of Hanford—specially the doctor level and stuff, they didn’t live in Richland. They lived in Kennewick and Pasco, and they wanted their kids as well educated as the kids in Richland. So there the push was, boy, you have good schools in the Tri-Cities. That was just the accepted thing. So a lot of my contemporaries then, their fathers worked out here. So there was just a different set of expectations that went along with all that.

Franklin: So that kind of—the middle-class and upper-middle-class affluence sort of Richland--

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah, it spilled over. Big time. But I benefited totally from that environment and just those expectations: you were going to go to college, you were going to do this, you were going to— [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: But so you’re saying there was maybe some resentment that GE and the government took care of people in Richland—

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah way past—

Franklin: And there was this idea that they were freeloading or something—

Ostergaard: Yeah, and that was just probably a jealousy or something. Dad, he worked in the lumberyard in Pasco. And in summer, he’d have to come up and help fill-in—there was a lumberyard up here on Van Giesen. Where Boehm’s Chocolate is—or was. There was a lumberyard in there at one point. So he hated to come up here. He said, they expect so damn much and they don’t want to pay for anything. He called them smashers—for atom smashers.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Ostergaard: Damn smashers! God, I hate them! [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: That’s really—I’ve not heard that before.

Ostergaard: Well, that was his term.

Franklin: Right, I like that.

Ostergaard: And of course at that time, Richland had a really, really good basketball team. Art Dawald was the coach in that era. So there was a—boy, that was kind of the high school sports thing. And then Pasco and Kennewick had a giant rivalry in football. And that game was the only day game they played, and that was always on Veteran’s Day. That was a big deal, big time.

Franklin: Can you describe growing up in the Tri-Cities in the Cold War and how—being so close to Hanford, but living in Kennewick or Pasco, was there any kind of fear that Hanford would have been a prime target if the war were ever fought?

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah, we were totally afraid of the Russians. [LAUGHTER] There was not necessarily anything nasty out there, it was more the Russians. We had, probably not as intense as Richland with the duck-and-cover stuff. I don’t think we were ever scrambling under desks or anything. We didn’t have any air raid sirens; I know Richland did. They brought those things in from World War II and set them up around town here. So we had our instructions. And I know one time—I wish I had one of these things. They were flying around in airplanes one time throwing out little pamphlets to—What Should You Do—

Franklin: Like civil defense pamphlets?

Ostergaard: Yeah, right, yeah! It was just—

Franklin: That’s an odd way to distribute that.

Ostergaard: God, I know it. But I wish to hell I had one! Because I found one stuck in a tree. But, no, and unfortunately, it was hyped up enough at home—lived in a wood frame house. And in the night the wind would get to blowing and banging against the house and stuff. And there were several times I convinced myself that it was a bomb going off. It was serious stuff. You were totally into it.

Franklin: Was there ever any worry that you knew in the communities—Kennewick, Pasco—of the environmental aspect of Hanford—

Ostergaard: No.

Franklin: Or any kind of—

Ostergaard: No. That just wasn’t happening yet.

Franklin: Okay. Even though—I mean, because the Green Run was in 1940—

Ostergaard: I mean, nobody knew of that until—not even heard of it until probably 20 years after it happened when the Down Winders got going. Yeah, I’ve sat there thinking about 1954, November. Where the hell was I that day? The wind was coming out of—so you start thinking about it then. But, yeah, like I say, for me, I was kind of proud of the place. I still am. Of what had happened and everything. So I’ve benefitted—[inaudible] but have benefitted greatly from the whole business. We had one couple of Christmases ago, the family got together. And my brother, he’s working sheet metal contract out there—foreman for that. And his two sons, they were working down at Hermiston in getting rid of the mustard nerve gas and stuff.

Franklin: Oh, right.

Ostergaard: And I going, damn, World War II’s still been good to this family. We’re still working because of it. [LAUGHTER] Which is, you know, true!

Franklin: Yeah, yeah, there’s legacy aspects of weapons production.

Ostergaard; Totally. And of course back then the science thing was big. I remember in 1957, the International Geophysical Year and all this stuff we got handed at school. It was something to be—technology was just to be treasured. In this environment especially.

Franklin: What are some of your memories of any—some of the major events in the Tri-Cities? Like did you go to any Atomic Frontier Days parades? Or did you—what about Kennedy’s visit or Nixon’s visit?

Ostergaard: Okay, well, let’s see, Atomic Frontier Days—that was still when Richland was—we didn’t go to Richland. That was, no, we don’t go to Richland. [LAUGHTER] We were much more Kennewick and Pasco oriented on that. I missed the Nixon visit because I was in the service. And the Kennedy visit was ’62, ’63?

Franklin: ’63.

Ostergaard: That one, Jesus. I was probably—well, I was 16. I just wasn’t conscious of it at that point. It just wasn’t something you did. I do remember they had Eisenhower come out in ’54 to dedicate McNary Dam. And they ran school buses—loads of kids—down to see it. My folks wouldn’t let me go because they didn’t like him. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Were your folks Democrats?

Ostergaard: Yeah.

Franklin: Okay.

Ostergaard: [LAUGHTER] Oh, hardcore. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: But like FDR era, Progressive New Deal-era Democrats or--?

Ostergaard: Yeah, kind of. They were just like—[HISS] Republican. So there was that type of thing going on. I became aware of—fortunately, in high school, I had some very good instructors who made us politically aware. And so I knew all about Magnusson and Jackson and how all that works. The more I find out, the more interesting that gets. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Yeah. Yeah. Could you describe the ways in which security or secrecy at Hanford has impacted your work?

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah. Well, that’s just what you did. It was just an expectation. You go out there and here’s all these guards and all this stuff. You just played the game. I’d never considered it, necessarily, a burden. It was tedious and ponderous at times, but you just—you do what they say. They make the rules, they can change the rules, they can enforce the rules or not enforce the rules. You’re powerless, so you just go along. It’s real simple. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: What would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford during the Cold War and then afterward? Or just your kind of experience at Hanford?

Ostergaard: Well, first thing I’ve kind of learned is you can’t judge anything from the past in light of how you judge things today. That is the most—people kind of, especially Pearl Harbor and the activities around then—we were sort of caught flatfooted. And then some of the things that went on—internment camps and things like that. It’s just like, you got to go—okay, we didn’t know what the heck was going on. We didn’t know if they were going to land in Portland the next day or something. And so you react. And some of those reactions weren’t the best in the world. But you can’t end up—of that. And then the same thing with the environmental stuff out there. You can’t call any of those folks dumb or not caring, because all the stuff I’ve seen and all the images and stuff, everybody was doing the best of their ability with what they had. And so there wasn’t any just slipshod, they-don’t-care—except maybe the Green Run or something, but—[LAUGHTER] But you kind of look at some of that as an overzealous—because, again, it’s all driven by fear, or unknowns. Just for that not to be forgotten. And also that those people were as smart or probably smarter than we are, I think, as far as thinking things through and making do. Because that’s always been my contention with the construction camp and everything. You have those ’43, ‘44, ’45—they didn’t—if you were draft age, you weren’t there unless you had some real specialty. They recruited out of the southeast. And they didn’t want to recruit workers from the industrial—shipbuilding and all that, take those away. So they were down in the south where there was workers available. And all these people had just survived the Depression. And they knew how to make do. And they came up here and continued to make do. So that’s kind of my thing, is just that whole—and it’s unfortunate that such a great amount of energy and everything was expended on something that had such a nasty result. But—[LAUGHTER]—it’s just—

Franklin: What about later in the Cold War though? The ‘50s through the late ‘80s, and kind of that mass of—because a lot of conversations about Hanford, there’s the World War II Hanford, but then there’s the larger, much larger mission but with not such a dramatic conclusion to it, right? The Cold War kind of made 20,000 nuclear weapons around and then just kind of fizzled out.

Ostergaard: Yeah, the Cold War ramp-up thing was like—I just caught probably the tail end of that. But kind of—I got wandering here a little bit—but I always think it’s just so cool to be part of this process where all these things were happening. And being somewhat of an insider of it, I have a whole different perspective of things. If you say radiation, I go, well, okay, what kind and how much. Not, radiation?! Now, I’d be that way with nerve gas from Umatilla—which way do I run? [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Nerve gas is nerve gas no matter which way you look at it.

Ostergaard: That’s right! So I have just always been kind of a—had a little better understanding of what was going on and realized there are phenomenal risks still out there. And when you’re working with guys who, in the day we were doing in-tank waste tank inspections by putting a Hasselblad on a rig, shooting argon on the lens to keep it clean, button this thing up in plastic, and dropping it down a riser and rotating the camera, shooting pictures with a strobe inside to see the tank walls.

Franklin: Wow.

Ostergaard: Now they do it digital.

Franklin: Yeah.

Ostergaard: So that was some of our specialists who just—that’s what they did. And I got involved in—always in the after thing of all that stuff. I would be handling the film and processing things.

Franklin: Was that done for all of the tanks?

Ostergaard: Oh, god, yeah. I did--

Franklin: That’s such a laborious—

Ostergaard: Oh, totally.

Franklin: I mean, that’s necessary work, but that’s such a laborious technical process to go through that.

Ostergaard: Oh, yeah. I went through—for an outside contractor, went through and basically did all the single shell tanks that we could find. Everything I could find on each one of them. Of course that stuff was in essence obsolete now because of age and whatever. Yeah, it was fascinating stuff because it was just so scary—or so potentially bad. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Yeah. Yeah.

Ostergaard: Yeah, that was just a really—just in technical—I want to throw in a little pitch. The environmental stuff for the photo lab, we—back when I first came there, pretty much everything went down the drain. And again, it’s photo chemicals. And then in—when was it? When the Hunt Brothers kind of tried to corner the silver market there for a while, our boss, Les Michael—we had massive amounts of fixer we were generating. So he, on his own initiative, started reclaiming silver. We had a whole setup out there. We used an electrolytic process. So we were kind of ahead of that curve by our own doing. We were actually scraping—you know, we were doing the whole thing. And then as it got tighter and tighter, we started doing whatever is deemed proper at the time. So we had that running pretty tight. There was one time we—the state—we were actually functioning like a photo lab like you’d see in Seattle or Portland or anywhere else. Pretty much doing the same rules, because it’s just all the same stuff. They had some state inspector come in, and they were—since we were Hanford, we were kind of targeted, I think. We ultimately, one time, ran parallel processes on all the waste streams coming out of our processes, running typical batches of film. The state people brought in their sets of jugs and stuff to collect. And since the Hanford people didn’t quite trust and vice versa, they were doing a double set. And then they sent this stuff off, spent horrific amounts of money that proved we were doing everything right. [LAUGHTER] We weren’t really getting pats on the head. Everybody was just glad it was over. Whoops. So, we were doing a good job.

Franklin: Cool.

Ostergaard: And the cool thing about that, too, is our negatives are still hanging in there really well as far as process. I’ve had that question before: well, aren’t your negatives getting old? And blah, blah, blah, blah. Some lady from somewhere back east, one time, and I was very nice about it. But I said, well, no, our negatives are wonderful. They’re not fading. They’re not, because one, we had the budget and everything to do everything correctly. So everything was thoroughly washed, thoroughly fixed, everything. And also they’ve all been stored in human conditions. They haven’t been in a CONEX box or anything. They’re out where people are. And we’re in a desert; there’s no humidity. Everything--

Franklin: Yeah, that’s really good for long-term.

Ostergaard: Yeah, so everything’s fine. We do have—I think they got them out now—I went through and did a study on nitrate-based negatives. And I found you do all your work and mostly early ‘50s and mostly it was Ansco and it may be a few DuPonts and stuff. I found about 1,100. And you could just—in a storage box—you could just open the box up and sniff and tell. Oh, there’s something in here. So I went ahead and kind of made the guys—I think they pulled them out eventually. But that nitrate thing, especially at the Hanford environment, what do you do with them? Fortunately they’re scattered all over the place so there’s not a critical mass of them. And what the archive folks were doing with them is they were pulling them out and freezing them. But here, if you have a whole freezer full of nitrate negatives, you’ve created a waste. So it’s a double-edged sword. [LAUGHTER] But we had our share of 90-day storage pads and saving film to recycle and the yearly contract and we had our ion exchange column. We were doing everything. It was good.

Franklin: That’s good. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to talk about or mention?

Ostergaard: Oh, I’m sure there will be 20 things the minute I walk out the door.

Franklin: Well, thank you so much, Dan, I really appreciate it. It’s really illuminating to hear you—to get some of that information on the photos and your perspective on Hanford, having not only worked there but also having seen so much of the history from the photo side.

Ostergaard: Yeah, great. Well, like I say, I didn’t want it to end. I was just having way too much fun.

Franklin: Yeah, I bet.

Ostergaard: And it was, the more—like you—the more time you invest and the more time goes on, the more you start to make connections of things. It’s just like, wow, this is just—I’m just getting good! [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Yeah. Well, thank you so much.

Ostergaard: Okay, all righty.

Franklin: All right.

Ostergaard: Great.

View interview on Youtube.



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Hanford Sites

300 Area
327 Building
700 Area
B Reactor

Years in Tri-Cities Area


Years on Hanford Site


Names Mentioned

Mr. Shields
Lance Michael
Bud Mace
Don Brauer’s
Bonnie Campo
Linda Goodman
Art Dawald


Ostergarrd, Dan.JPG


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Dan Ostergaard,” Hanford History Project, accessed May 25, 2024,