Civil Defense in Wisconsin

I am about a month into my final year of undergraduate college. One of the privileges I have in my history degree program is to conduct some in-depth research on a selected topic. The class is called History Seminar and covers areas in history for students to research and write on. My particular seminar deals with the decade of the 1960s. The class is reserved for seniors and is the capstone class of the history degree program. In the class it is each students’ job to research a topic from this era and to propose a paper, a rather lengthy paper, that could be written about the topic using primary sources. An amazing advantage that we have here in the UW system is the ability to call up primary sources from archives all over the state and have them brought right to our campus.I began exploring different areas of history from this decade that I go could a topic on.

I will be honest, the 1960s don’t really interest me that much. I really didn’t feel like doing something about the hippies, Vietnam War or protesting. I thought about researching the U.S. vs U.S.S.R. race to the moon, but our state archives doesn’t have primary sources that could help me with that. I eventually ran into something I thought could be an interesting topic to explore, Civil Defense. Our state historical society has an abundance of material that covers this topic. I am more interested in how CD was portrayed/planned in the state of Wisconsin during the 1960s.

Fallout Shelter sign from the Cold War Era.

Before I can being my research, I have to first explore what historians have said about CD programs and its reception by the public. Although I am narrowing my view of preparations in Wisconsin, there are not, from what I could find, secondary sources specifically covering CD in Wisconsin. So, I have to first see the overall picture of what was going on in the 60s with the programs.  I can then apply what I have learned from my secondary sources to establish a thesis for what I believe was happening on a local level in Wisconsin.

I am very excited to jump into the depths of history to understand this complex plan our government had in place. I am sure I will learn a lot, and I hope that I can share what I have learned with everyone else with my research paper. It is going to be a great semester! I will keep you updated on the progress and what I discover.

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