Bringing the Diefenbunker to life


Submitted by: 

Astrid Heyerdahl


Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History is working with local filmmaker Bryan Webb to bring the Cold War era to vivid life, using firsthand accounts and a new exhibition inside the walls of Nelson’s own Civil Defense Unit, known affectionately as the town’s own ‘Diefenbunker.’

For both Canada’s government and its people, the fear of nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union started   escalating after the Soviet Union’s attainment of nuclear capability in 1949 – transformed the meaning of civil defense.

Underground ‘bunkers’ were constructed in the 1950s in locations across Canada, including Nelson, to house government officials and essential personnel in the case of attack. Bringing that tense era of uncertainty to life is the goal of this project.

Touchstones has leased Nelson’s Civil Defense Unit in the basement of the Gray Building (514 Vernon Street in Nelson) to house the region’s history collection and bring this important heritage site into the public realm for residents and visitors alike. The first phase of ‘Bunker’ renovations are now complete and we are now working towards bringing the Bunker to life through the development of a film and exhibition. 

We want to hear stories from the Nelson and Area public. What do you remember about the Cold War era in Nelson? Did you have to hide under your desk during drills? Where you living in Nelson during the mid-1950s to mid-1960s? Do you have any stories, photos or other material to share about Nelson’s Bunker/Civil Defense Unit?

Webb will work with Touchstones to interview individuals who experienced the Cold War firsthand and want to be a part of this exciting history and heritage project.

If you would like to be interviewed and share your stories, please contact Touchstones Nelson at 250-352-9813 or

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