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Curator’s Notebook: Lunchtime Lecture Series

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Give Me Shelter: The Failure of Canada’s Cold War Civil Defence, 1945–1963

How well would you and your family do in a nuclear war? In 1945, the Canadian government began developing civil defence plans, and encouraged citizens to join local survival corps. By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the civil defence program was being widely mocked, and the public remained vastly unprepared for nuclear war. This lunchtime chat will explore responses to the Cold War in Canada and the challenges involved in educating the public on the threat of nuclear annihilation, and will provide an explanation for the failure of Canada’s civil defence program.  

Dr. Andrew Burtch, Post-1945 Historian

Dr. Andrew Burtch has been the Museum’s historian for the post-1945 period since May 2006. As curator of Gallery 4: A Violent Peace, he is responsible for all questions relating to conflicts from the beginning of the Cold War to the present day.

Dr. Burtch completed his doctorate in Canadian history at Carleton University in 2009. His research specialty includes the Cold War home front and nuclear civil defence. He has worked to develop temporary and permanent exhibitions about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, peacekeeping in Cyprus and efforts to resolve the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Dr. Burtch has published several journal articles and book reviews. His first book, Give Me Shelter: The Failure of Canada’s Nuclear Civil Defence Program, 1945-1963, is now available from the University of British Columbia Press.

Dr. Burtch is also a Research Fellow at the University of Waterloo’s Centre on Canadian Foreign Policy and Federalism. 

The tradition of research at the Canadian Museum of Civilization dates back 100 years, when its forerunner — the Anthropology Division of the Geological Survey of Canada — was established. For the past 20 years, members of the Museum’s curatorial staff have hosted lunchtime conferences with a view to exchanging ideas, collections and questions with fellow researchers and Museum visitors. This winter’s line-up features several distinguished speakers, chosen from among the Museum's curators and research fellows. We welcome one and all to these lectures — pull up a chair, indulge your mind, speak your piece. Each presentation lasts 30 minutes, and is followed by a question-and-answer period.

For more information, please contact John Willis: john.willis@civilization.ca.

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