Living with the Atomic Bomb

Living with the Atomic Bomb


Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow: Living With the Atomic Bomb, 1945-1965 – Museum of the Gulf Coast will host an exhibit showcasing the atomic paranoia of the 1950s from April 4-May 25. 2015. The curator has created a “bomb shelter.”

This exhibit was produced by Exhibits USA and supplemented with items from the personal collection of David Beard, museum director. Beard said he remembers the waning days of Civil Defense when schoolchildren were taught to “Duck and Cover.”  From 1945 to 1965, the general public was subject to a wide-range of Cold War propaganda, mostly focused around how the United States would survive the impending nuclear war.  This war, of course, never happened.  The fear that it might still happen is part of our culture.  Movies, television shows, books, and games ask us to consider what a post-apocalyptic world might look like, writes Sarah Bellian, museum curator

Background: On August 6, 1945, a specially-equipped American B-29 Superfortress dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. On August 9, another atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki. For most Americans, the immediate reaction to the atomic bomb was relief: it had ended the war. But as the United States celebrated, it also braced itself for the uncertain future of the Atomic Age. For the next two decades, the looming threat of Atomic war dominated American society.

The exhibit features more than 75 original objects from the era. The timeline includes:

The Blast, 1945–1950 covers the years immediately following Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the American response split between popular consensus that the bomb had helped win World War II and a growing realization that this weapon could destroy the earth.

Under the Mushroom Cloud, 1951–1956 shows how the situation changed after the Soviets acquired atomic capabilities in 1949. This new threat ushered in the Cold War and the age of Civil Defense.

Nuclear Fallout, 1957–1965 describes the American response after the Soviets launched Sputnik in October 1957. The best Americans could do was build a fallout shelter or keep an evacuation map in their car, ready to get out of harm’s way.

The thematic journey begins in At Home with “The Bomb,” where federal pamphlets, radio announcements, and newspapers brought a steady stream of warning and words of encouragement to families. Children’s experiences are the special focus of “Atomics” at School. From textbooks to “duck and cover” drills, the impact of the Atomic Age in the schoolyard is one of the most indelible memories of childhood for many Baby Boomers. Civil Defense and Community includes a closer look at the activities of the Civil Defense agency and the Ground Observer Corps. At Play in the Atomic Age looks at how the country reacted to atomic threats through leisure activities, from comic books to monster movies and ray guns.

Learn more at:

This exhibit is sponsored in party by Southeast Texas Arts Council.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>