In 2010 some homeowners in Neenah opened a backyard fallout shelter that was built by the previous property owners in 1960. Inside were ammo boxes filled with supplies (from food and games to medicine and radiation meters) to last a family of four for about 2 weeks. Some artifacts from the shelter were donated to the Neenah Historical Society. A group of people, myself included, have spent the past 5 months researching and writing an exhibition that highlights the history of what lead to the construction of this shelter. The exhibit features different aspects of the Cold War History, including civil defense, popular culture, and politics. My contribution to the exhibition was the panels written on U.S., Wisconsin, and Winnebago County civil defense. In addition, items recovered from the shelter are on display for people to see. We even managed to build a replica of a family fallout shelter, and used items found in the real shelter to stock it.
I had a second opportunity to venture back into the fallout shelter, but this time I brought my camera. I made the 11’ climb down the ladder and back into the 8’ x 10’ concrete room. Here are the pictures of what I saw.
This past Wednesday was a big day for our exhibition. The local news stations came to stories, and since then the story has gone national! How exciting that the exhibit is starting to pick up that kind of attention. I had my first appearance on television as well. It is amazing how USA Today, Huffington Post, and many other media outlets have picked up the story of the shelter.
Panels put in place
The final touches are being made for the opening day of the exhibition. Some of the panels are already up, and more are going up today. The replica shelter is stocked and ready for visitors. As one of the exhibition content creators, believe me when I say that the items they found down there are stunning. Handling some of the shelter relics, like the CD survey meter, was a field day for this young historian.
A CD survey meter found down in the shelter.
We created a replica shelter for our exhibit to give people an idea of the space. I actually had the opportunity to climb down 11′ and walk inside the dank shelter. When I ventured in, the shelter was filled with 14″ of water. There is still some debris down there in the corridor leading to the shelter space. As you enter the shelter there is a vault door with a bolting mechanism. You then enter the 8′ x 10′ shelter space where remnants of the bunk beds are still anchored to the wall. There are metal shelving units still standing in place. All of these are very rusted over from sitting in feet of water for decades. A metal pipe runs out of the shelter and up along the side of the house. At one time there would have been a hand-cranked blower to pull in fresh air from outside. Here are some pictures of the shelter hatch right before I went down. I will be posting pictures and a video later of my experience in the shelter.