Off-Campus History

Episode 10 - The Diefenbunker with Erin Isaac

December 10, 2021

On today’s episode, we have a very special crossover episode! We're taking shelter and visiting the Diefenbunker with Erin Isaac, host of Historia Nostra.

Officially styled Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, the Diefenbunker is a museum and historic site housed in a Cold War era nuclear bunker a little outside Ottawa, Canada. In 1959, the Canadian government commissioned this 4-story bunker. The idea was that if a nuclear attack hit Canada, important members of the military and government could take shelter inside and continue to run the government from there. The bunker was completed in 1961, and though no nuclear attack ever struck Canada, the site was used as a military base and communications headquarters until it was closed in 1994; that same year, it became a National Historic Site. Today, the Diefenbunker is a historic site that recreates the experience of life in the bunker. The site also has some exhibits providing a more general overview of the period.

To discuss this with me, I’m joined by Erin Isaac. Erin is a PhD student at Western University whose research focuses on themes of religion, race, and the environment in early North America. Erin is also the host of Historia Nostra, a YouTube channel that primarily explores how history is told and interpreted at museums and historic sites. Erin and I visited the Diefenbunker together, and she has a tie-in episode about our visit that you can see here: https://youtu.be/TcgrN56XE8E. Check out Historia Nostra's many other excellent videos here: https://www.youtube.com/c/HistoriaNostraNA!

For those interested in learning more about the history of preparation for nuclear war in Canada, check out Andrew Burtch’s Give Me Shelter: The Failure of Canada’s Cold War Civil Defence (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012). Those interested in thinking about the stories our historic sites tell should also check out Claire Elizabeth Campbell’s Nature, Place, and Story: Rethinking Historic Sites in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017).

In making this podcast and video, Erin and I met with a couple members of the Diefenbunker’s staff and learn a bit about the museum to them. Thanks to Sean Campbell and Jordan Vetter for taking the time to talk to us, and to the museum for covering our admission. Check out the Diefenbunker’s website at https://diefenbunker.ca/!

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