As May approaches the opening day of Take Cover Neenah! exhibit at the Neenah Historical Society gets closer! It has been a great opportunity to work with fellow historians to assemble an amazing exhibit about Cold War history in the United State and in Neenah, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Humanities Council awarded a grant to the historical society to help fund the exhibit.
Hours of research and planning have gone into putting this together. What prompted this exhibit to become reality? It just so happens that a fallout shelter was found in the backyard of a Neenah residence. The current property owner is also a key member of our team. When the shelter was opened by them it was filled with water and also waterproof ammo boxes filled with supplies from the early 1960s. The former resident had built a fallout shelter in the early 1960s as Cold War tensions rose.
I enrolled in a history seminar class where I was writing my senior paper on Wisconsin’s civil defense preparation. My professor asked if I would be interested in a exhibit that was in the works, because the paper I was working on would correlate with the exhibit. During our time working on this exhibit, I have learned a lot. My professor has been an astounding mentor and I am really glad he gave me the opportunity to be involved and collaborate with this project.
Some of the areas of research for my part of the exhibit focuses on civil defense in the United States, Wisconsin, and Winnebago County. The Wisconsin Historical Society Archives has several boxes with state information on civil defense and the UW-Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center was able to get them for me to look through. The UW-Oshkosh archivist also assisted with the exhibit and helped me find the documents I was looking for during my research. A few other resources that we utilized were:
- Newspaper Archives
- Winnebago County (County Clerk’s Office)
- Oshkosh Public Library
- Polk Library (Interlibrary Loan)
Visitors to the exhibit will be intrigued by the different aspects we have incorporated to tell the story. We invite people to learn the history of the Cold War and how it affected American life. Visitors can observe the attempts of the national, state, and local government to prepare and educate the public about nuclear warfare and see the objects hidden in a fallout shelter for nearly 50 years. People today may not be able to imagine what life would be like living in a fallout shelter after a nuclear war, but our exhibit will give you a glimpse of it. You will just have to see it!