Editor’s note: In preparation for the upcoming NCPH conference in Ottawa, The Public Historian has commissioned a series of Ottawa site reviews, as it does annually for sites in our conference city. These “(p)reviews,” as we’re dubbing them, will inaugurate what we hope will be a growing partnership between The Public Historian and the Public History Commons. Further online post-conference reviews will follow later this spring; we invite readers to comment on these posts as they appear.
The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum. HENRIETTE RIEGEL, Executive Director.
There is an aura of kitsch about the Diefenbunker, from the cutesy pun of its name, to the ubiquitous sea foam green shade of its unmistakably 1960s décor. As your tour guide will tell you, the brief warning period ushered in by the advent of ground-based nuclear missiles meant that the bunker was somewhat obsolete by the time construction finished, lending a contrasting absurdity to the awe of its labyrinthine massiveness. Nevertheless, the space evokes some of the most deeply-felt realities of the Cold War, and the sheer terror of nuclear conflict. Located at the edge of Carp, a reasonable drive from downtown Ottawa—although probably not reasonable enough to outpace the aforementioned missiles—Canada’s Cold War Museum opened to the public in 1998. Initially a solely volunteer operation, the site now has full-time staff members and follows a mandate to “increase throughout Canada and the world, interest in and a critical understanding of the Cold War.” Continue reading