The Diefenbunker is a four-story, 100,000 square foot underground bunker that was built in secrecy between 1959 and 1961 to house 535 Canadian government officials and military officers in the event of a nuclear war. It is located at the west end of Ottawa, in the village of Carp. The bunker was decommissioned in 1994 and was designated a National Historic Site in the same year. Through the efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers, the building has been preserved and was incorporated as a Museum in 1998, opening to the public in 1999.
For those of us who remember hiding under our school desks in case of a nuclear attack, the Diefenbunker is a trip down memory lane — the building is furnished as it was in the early and mid-sixties. But a trip down memory lane is not enough for this museum. The museum staff have endeavoured to reach out to new audiences who did not live through the Cold War with its spy camps for children, teachers’ resources, musical concerts, art exhibitions and conflict resolution workshops. This has all led to a new life for this underground museum. It is now attracting almost 50,000 visitors per year, 36% of which are under the age of 18. The Museum’s endeavour to promote learning for the future, from the past, has won them many accolades and tourism awards.
The staff of the Diefenbunker is supported by a great group of volunteers who give tours, run programs, and even help maintain the building – no longer a top-secret facility, or just a Cold War relic, but a community space for learning, art, history, and more.