Exhibit explores the ‘life atomic’

Published 12:37 pm Friday, April 9, 2010

A new traveling exhibit at the North Berrien Historical Museum will explore the impact of the atomic bomb on American culture during the 1950s and early 1960s. “The Life Atomic: Growing Up in the Shadow of the A-Bomb” opened April 1.

Whether you are a baby boomer who remembers the early atomic age or a younger person who is curious about that time, this new exhibit at the North Berrien Historical Museum will be sure to please.

Today American citizens find themselves threatened with the possibility of harm at the hands of foreign terrorists. But 50 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, Americans lived under another kind of threat – global thermonuclear war. However, the atomic bomb inspired more than fear. The bomb also influenced virtually every aspect of American popular culture.  Movies, books, home fashions and even toys reflected a society that came to terms with life in the atomic age.

“The Life Atomic” illustrates the impact of the atomic bomb on everyday life through photographs and objects, in ways both serious and light-hearted. From civil defense warnings to B-movie posters and “atomic” toys, “The Life Atomic” shows the many ways the bomb influenced life during the Cold War.

Exhibit panels focus on the development of the bomb, early atomic testing in the American Southwest, civil defense preparations, fallout shelters, the influence of the bomb on movies and television, “atomic” toys and games and the impact of the bomb on home decor. Visitors can explore the inside of a typical home fallout shelter as they listen to civil defense public service announcements. They also can watch a variety of civil defense films, including the 1951 classic “Duck and Cover,” featuring the ever-prepared Bert the Turtle. Local information about North Berrien in the 1950s and 1960s will compliment the traveling exhibit.

Special events will compliment exhibit themes throughout April and May. Keynote speaker Erika Doss, professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, will discuss the impact of atomic anxiety in post-World War II America on May 4 at 7 p.m.

Movie screenings every Saturday at 1 p.m. will feature such classics as “THEM!” and “Dr. Strangelove.” Family programs include a community Sock Hop on April 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Alwood Gymnasium at Coloma Middle School.