The American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge was initially established in 1949 as the American Museum of Atomic Energy. Its opening on March 19, 1949, coincided with the opening of the security gates to the once top-secret city of Oak Ridge. The museum quickly became a key institution to orient visitors and newcomers to the scientific and technological achievements associated with the Manhattan Project and atomic energy research at Oak Ridge. In 1959, with congressional approval and support, the museum developed a special program entitled "This Atomic World" and took it on a national tour of American school systems, conducting presentations at many community events and state fairs as well. Program highlights during the next decade included an exhibit and program in 1969 on recently acquired moon rocks, then being studied by scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
In February 1975, again with federal support, especially through the efforts of Congressman Joe L. Evins, the museum moved from its original facility on Jefferson Circle in Oak Ridge to a new two-story, four-wing museum building at 300 South Tulane. The museum has remained and prospered at this location ever since. In 1978 the museum was renamed The American Museum of Science and Energy in an effort to better reflect the mission and energy policies of the recently established U.S. Department of Energy. Four years later, in 1982, the museum received 180,000 visitors during the six-month duration of the Knoxville World's Fair.
The American Museum of Science and Energy, an educational institution funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, maintains active and broad educational programs to help place into context the past, present, and future of the varied research activities at Oak Ridge. Current permanent exhibits include "The Oak Ridge Story," "Age of the Automobile," "Exploration Station," "Energy: The American Experience," "World of the Atom," "Earth's Energy Resources," and "Y-12 and National Defense," which connects the Manhattan Project to later national defense programs of the 1960s and 1970s.