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April 14 , 2010

Finding Diefenbunker

Canadian Nationalism and Cold War Memory


The text discusses the legacy of the Cold War in Canada by looking at Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s “Diefenbunkers”—eleven nuclear fallout shelters constructed in secret in the late 1950s to protect the Canadian national and provincial governments from a nuclear strike. While many of these sites have fallen into disrepair or been sold off, one such site has recently been repurposed as “Canada’s Cold War Museum” with the explicit purpose of fostering “interest and critical understanding of the Cold War.”

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The text questions how the site, its museumological apparatus, and the community curation of various rooms in the museum, constructs a “Cold War” for use in Canadian memory; questions the validity of considering the Diefenbunker as a memory site, following Pierre Nora’s seminal concept; and explores the role of fictions in the interactive exhibits that aim to engage Canadian youth—in particular—in the issues of nuclear war, emergency measures, and the role of civil defence. The museum and its displays are interrogated for their performance of and possibilities for inscription, re-inscription, and resignification of Canadian cultural memory.

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