From gold mine to laboratory

By Danielle Prostrollo

To commemorate the Norwich Science Festival next week, I wanted to very quickly highlight one of America’s lesser-known scientific institutions in my own home state of South Dakota, the Sanford Lab Homestake.

old homestake mine

The Homestake Mine By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The South Dakota gold rush may be less famous than the one in California but its effects continue today. The Homestake Mine was, for many years, the largest continuously running gold mine in America. In total, the mine supplied over 50 million ounces of gold and silver. After its closure in 2001, negotiations to allow a permanent research space began and resulted in the Sanford Lab. The lab is home to a number of experiments from several disciplines but some of the most fascinating (in my opinion) focus on neutrino and dark matter research. These experiments are only possible because of the mine’s incredible depth and size.

The Homestake deposit was discovered in 1876 and bought up for $70,000 (roughly equal to $1.5M in today’s money) the following year by a small group of entrepreneurs (that included George Hearst – newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst’s father). They clearly knew the investment would pay off, but did they know the mine would become an important site for scientific advancement?

The following diagram illustrates the initial plans for the Homestake Mine and shows the incredible usefulness of the mine toward scientific discovery in many disciplines.


By Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation ( news) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To learn more about some of the science being studied at the Sanford Lab, South Dakota, or gold mining in America be sure to check out the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, some suggestions to start out with:

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Dakotas: A Guide to Unique Places, by Lisa Meyers McClintick

Gold Dust & Gun Smoke: tales of gold rush outlaws, gunfighters, lawmen and vigilantes, by John Boessenecker


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Hallowed Histories

Hallowed Histories, which last year was sponsored by the Second Air Division Memorial Library, is beginning a second season.  To kick off this annual event, we are offering a free-to-the-public screening of The Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968) and the short featurette The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge (Dan Zeff, 2015).  The screening will be introduced by historian and University of East Anglia Professor Malcolm Gaskill.  Professor Gaskill’s work largely focuses on the witch trials of East Anglia and the folklore, superstitions and facts surrounding a period that he has coined as being a ‘17th Century English Tragedy’.

This may not initially seem relevant to the mission of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library and its continued establishment of the ‘friendship bridge’ between the United States and the local area, however, many might not realise that the self-appointed Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, himself a resident of Manningtree a civil parish located on the Essex/ Suffolk borders, almost immigrated to the US with his father, a Suffolk Puritan minister.  In fact, the plans were drawn up and the Hopkins family was all set to go until the unforeseen and untimely death of James Hopkins.  It is indeed an ironic coincidence that the man who might be seen as being chiefly responsible for the East Anglian Witch Trial mania almost found himself residing in Massachusetts, the state in which Salem is located!

However, not only is Matthew Hopkins connected to the US colonies, but Professor Gaskill’s most recent monograph, entitled Between Two Worlds: how the English Became Americans (2014) also further explores this ‘special’ relationship.



The film screening of Witchfinder General will take place on the 19th of October at UEA’s Julian Study Centre room 3.02 starting 7:00 pm to be followed by a drinks reception.  Although tickets are free, we do suggest that you book a place through Eventbrite to ensure a place.  To listen to our podcast interview, for more information on this and the other events that make up this year’s Hallowed Histories  or to book for this event, follow the links to be found on our website at  You can also follow us on Facebook or Instagram at Hallowed Histories or at Twitter at @hallowedhist.

And finally, be sure to drop in to the Memorial Library where Professor Gaskill’s book is available.

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The 2017 Charles Walker Memorial Lecture

By Danielle Prostrollo

Charles Walker, decorated B-24 Liberator pilot for the 445th Bomb Group at Tibbenham, was an active supporter of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library throughout his life. In memory of his life and support, a yearly lecture is organised as a joint effort between the 2nd Air Division Memorial Trust and the Department of American Studies at the University of East Anglia which is titled the Charles Walker Memorial Lecture.

Each year a guest speaker, specialising in different facets of American histories and culture, is invited to Norwich for the annual Charles Walker Memorial Lecture. This year we are anxiously awaiting Professor Susan Castillo Street’s talk titled The Dark Side of Paradise: 21st Century Florida Gothic in Carl Hiaasen and Karen Russell. The money for this annual lecture is lovingly donated in Chuck’s memory by his widow Dr Dede Casad.

The evening will, no doubt, delve into each author’s depictions of modern Florida and those wanting to become more acquainted with the material (or simply refresh their memory) can pick up or reserve a copy of your favourite Hiaasen or Swamplandia by Russell from Norfolk libraries.

Please join us for an afternoon with Professor Castillo Street whether you are a well-read fan of the authors or are simply interested in learning more about American literature. The event is free and no booking is necessary.

Charles Walker Lecture (13-11-17)


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Filed under American Culture, Books, Current Events, Memorial Library, Public Events

In The Library: Photo Wall

By Don Allen

In the reading area of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library there are comfy chairs and tables where you can sit and read a book or talk with friends. On the wall behind you stands a large wall plastered with a collage of photographs from World War II and the 2nd Air Division. The actual photographs can be found on our Digital Archives (, and I’ll leave most of them unidentified in this post so you can make a scavenger hunt game out of it if you’d like. However, I am going to post a few pictures of the wall here and identify some of the individual photos, one of a person which I’m sure most of you will recognize!


Photo Wall from just inside door. A photo of the WAAC’s/WAC’s (Women’s Army Auxilary Corp/Women’s Air Corp) is on the left.


The “Friendly Invasion” photographic mural from the main desk


A 2nd Air Division B-24 Liberator Aircraft


Then Lt. Colonel Jimmy Stewart receiving the French Croix de Guerre with Palm in 1944

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