It Came from the Archives: Fallout Shelters

Next Monday is our annual Halloween event and we are so excited about sharing all the spooky (and silly) things that we have in our collections. In anticipation of next week’s event, we are highlighting one group of materials that will be on display at the event—fallout shelter plans and pamphlets. 

Southern Medical Bulletin

One thing that scared many Americas during the 1960s was the prospect of nuclear war. Consequently, many plans were made across the country for the building or preparation of fallout shelters. These were sites “intended to give some protection against fallout radiation and other effects of a nuclear explosion, either an existing area such as a basement or tunnel, or a structure specially constructed for this purpose” (Dictionary of Energy, p. 218). In the Bernard Fetter Papers, there is an Engineering Design Study for Fallout Shelter Areas at Duke University dated February 22, 1963. The study contains detailed plans of all possible shelter areas on Duke’s campus down to the number of lamps and circuits in each building.

This detailed plan is not out of the norm as Fetter’s collection also contains a sampling of medical literature devoted to the danger of nuclear war. Clinical Symposia devoted an entire issue in early 1962 to “Survival in Nuclear Warfare”. Around the same time, the Southern Medical Bulletin also published a similar bulletin titled “Symposium: When Disaster Strikes!”. While they do provide suggestions on how physicians should act in the case of nuclear attack, they go much further than pure medical instruction. In Clinical Symposia, Frank Netter provides detailed illustrations of atomic fission and atomic fusion. In the Southern Medical Bulletin, Dr. Joseph R. Schaeffer writes in his article, "The Role of the Physician in a Nuclear Age", “As a nation we have grown soft. True, we have been and are living well “high on the hog.” One would without doubt find it necessary to go back into the ancient history of Greece to uncover any similar situation. That civilization grew soft and disappeared.” (p. 20-21)

Civil Defense InformationDuke clearly took these warnings seriously as the Civilian Defense Organization prepared several pamphlets detailing key survival tips both for the Fallout in Durham
Duke community and the city of Durham (as shown to the right). Come join us next Monday to check out these brochures and learn exactly what food and supplies you should stockpile in your fallout shelter. Or if you aren’t worried about nuclear destruction, maybe our detailed medical illustrations, reports on electroshock therapy, or death masks will give you a fright!

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