The A-Bomb’s shadow

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By Kirsten Laskey

The new exhibit at the Los Alamos Historical Museum focuses on a subject that affected the entire nation, but for the local community, it especially hit close to home.

In fact, not only does the exhibit feature displays from the Rogers Historical Museum in Rogers, Ark., but the local museum was able to incorporate a few materials from its own collection.

The exhibit, “The Life Atomic: Growing Up in the Shadow of the A-Bomb,” addresses the height of the Cold War.

In response to the threat of global thermo-nuclear war, the exhibit reveals U.S. citizens did everything from constructing fall-out shelters to conducting “duck and cover” drills.

The Cold War did not just spark fear; there was also a lot of fascination toward nuclear science.

The exhibit shows movie posters advertising sci-fi films that featured nuclear weapons as well as some of the nuclear-themed gizmo-gadets that were produced.

Heather McClenahan, the museum assistant and web master, proclaimed the exhibit to be “one of the best traveling exhibits we’ve had … very well done.”

She explained the exhibit covers different aspects of the Cold War; the serious side portrays the real fear of nuclear war but there is a silly side, too, as depicted by the movies and toys.

One of its biggest features includes a life-size model of a fall-out shelter, complete with a cot and some of the museum’s survival tins of crackers and biscuits and water barrels.

The museum also contributed some of its shelter assignment cards to the exhibit, which informed Los Alamos residents of what shelter they should go to if the county was under attack.

A few of the museum’s black-and-white photos of civil defense are included in the exhibit as well.

Seeing the displays should interest a lot people, McClenahan said. “I think a lot of people, especially the Baby Boomers, remember doing the duck and cover,” she said.

For the younger generations, “it’s learning about that,” McClenahan said.

“It’s a fascinating time in American history, from a historical stand point,” she added.

In today’s society, there’s a sort of relief that the Cold War is over but  “now we have other things we have to face (such as terrorism),” McClenahan said.

She pointed out that this is also a period of history especially relevant to Los Alamos. “It’s multi-facted,” she said.

“This is what we unleashed on the one hand, but (there is) also relief – it’s over (and it) couldn’t have happened without Los Alamos. “It sort of reminds us where we’ve been, then we have to ask ourselves how do we go on from there,” McClenahan continued.

The exhibit is traveling throughout the country, and Los Alamos is its first stop.

McClenahan said she found out about the exhibit through an e-mail.

The exhibit will be at the museum through Feb. 28.

McClenahan encourages people to visit the exhibit during this time because “I think it lets people see their own history. “

Providing historical artifacts from Los Alamos should also interest people.

 McClenahan said these local pieces reveal “it happened here, too.”

The museum, which is located next to Fuller Lodge, is opened from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.