The Cuban Missile Crisis – 50 Years Later

FALLOUT, an exhibition of The Diefenbunker Photographs by Leslie Hossack currently on view at The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, has been extended until 31 December 2012.

The Diefenbunker was Canada’s Central Emergency Government Headquarters throughout the Cold War. During the Cuban Missile Crisis exactly 50 years ago, the federal government made plans to move there, but never did.

FALLOUT is a collection of interpretative photographs of the Diefenbunker which became operational in 1961. It was designed to shelter 535 designated officials charged with maintaining a thin thread of government in the event of nuclear attack. And the world did come very close to the brink during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

Leslie Hossack’s photographs explore the singular question of simple human survival. Her images are haunted by her childhood memories of the Cold War, and by her preoccupation with issues of inclusion and exclusion, change and continuity, longing and loss.

When I first visited the Diefenbunker, I felt a visceral connection. I felt strangely at home in Canada’s Cold War Museum. I have always been attracted to locations linked to the monumental events of the 20th century: Stalinist buildings in Moscow, Nazi architecture in Berlin, sacred sites in Jerusalem.  – L. H.

the most dangerous two weeks in history

Main Dining Room, Level 200, The Diefenbunker, Ottawa 2010

© Leslie Hossack

The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 has been called the most dangerous two weeks in history. For detailed information about this event, please visit Thirteen Days in October. The year 1962 marked the height of the Cold War.

A year before, in December 1961, Canada’s Central Emergency Government Headquarters, aka the Diefenbunker, became operational. During the Cold War, in the event of a nuclear attack, designated government officials would report to Canada’s flagship bunker in Carp. It contained over 300 rooms and was designed to shelter 535 individuals. Built secretly between 1959 and 1961 just outside of Ottawa, the Diefenbunker was nicknamed after Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker.

The photograph above shows the main dining room. Located three levels down in the four-story bunker, it could accommodate up to 200 people at a time. The furniture seen here, none of which is original to the bunker, is typical of the mid 1980s. Just out of view is the main lounge with pool tables and other recreational activities. There is also a canteen in this area.

The Diefenbunker was shut down in 1994, after 33 years of operation. It is now Canada’s Cold War Museum and a National Historic Site. For more information, please visit Canada’s Cold War Museum and Parks Canada.