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Los Alamos forever in hearts of authors

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Sharon Snyder and Toni Michnovicz Gibson had personal reasons for putting together a book of archival photographs on Los Alamos.

Snyder wanted to give back to Los Alamos, a town where she lived from 1959 to 1965, the year she graduated from Los Alamos High School.

A longtime Albuquerque-area resident, she is the publications director of the Los Alamos Historical Society, which contributed historical images for the book.


“Los Alamos and the Pajarito Plateau” organized by Sharon Snyder, Toni Michnovicz Gibson and the Los Alamos Historical Society
Arcadia Publishing, $21.99, 127 pp.

For Gibson, who grew up in Albuquerque, her help in organizing the photographs in the book was about honoring her late father, John Michnovicz.

“It has my dad’s photos and it’s about my dad’s place in Los Alamos history,” she said.

“This helped me and my siblings learn more about our father’s life at Los Alamos. Growing up with 12 brothers and sisters wasn’t easy, but this was a good way to reconcile my relationship with my father. So I’m grateful for this project.”

Gibson said her father worked on the Manhattan Project. An Army sergeant, John Michnovicz had studied electrical engineering but for the project he worked as a photographer.

“They needed photographic documentation of the people on the project … in the community and he did portraiture (of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and other project leaders),” she said.

The book’s photographs present the history and human and physical landscape of the town of Los Alamos, and the Pajarito Plateau on which it sits, dating from the “Paleo-Indian hunters and gatherers” through the early Pueblo people, the Spanish explorers and the ranching, farming and lumber operations at the turn of the 19th century.

A chapter is devoted to the Los Alamos Ranch School, which Ashley Pond Jr. opened in 1917. It closed in 1942 when the federal government took over the plateau for the top-secret Manhattan Project.

The book continues the community’s story through the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the destruction caused by several forest fires, including the 2000 Cerro Grande fire that burned some 47,000 acres.

Snyder’s biography of poet/author Peggy Pond Church, daughter of Ashley Pond Jr. and author of “The House at Otowi Bridge,” is due out in November.

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