Are you looking for somewhere unusual to visit over the Summer? The National Archives (TNA), at Kew in south-west London, has provided details about the latest events in its ongoing ‘Cold War’ season, ‘Britain’s Cold War Revealed’, which started in April, 2019 and lasts until 9th November.
The Cold War, which lasted from approx. 1945-1991, was a 46-year stand-off between the world’s two superpowers, the USA and USSR, a confrontation which was made all the more tense by the haunting threat of a nuclear war breaking out at any moment. The TNA’s season offers a fascinating look into life in Britain during the turbulent Cold War era, and is comprised of an exhibition, ‘Protect and Survive’, together with a varied programme of associated events and talks.
The Cold War season at the National Archives opened with the special exhibition, which is located on the ground-floor of the building and is well worth a visit. The exhibition explores the impact of the Cold War on Britain, such as in the corridors of political power, in the hidden government bunkers, and on daily life in the home. The secret world of espionage and spying is also featured, and there are a range of souvenirs and Cold War-related books on sale in the TNA bookshop right next to the exhibition.
The opening of the exhibition in April helped launch a series of events and talks which have explored the reality of life in a Britain that was under the persistent threat of nuclear attack during the Cold War era. The popular events have also offered some exploration of the secret intelligence war engaged in by East and West, and how this impacted on Britain.
Events in the season still to come include the following:
Friday 16th August (2.00pm): ‘The Legacy of Secrecy: Experiences From The Stasi Records Archive’. This will see Dagmar Hovestadt (head of press at the Stasi Records Archive in Germany) explore how the former East German secret police (the ‘Stasi’) collected extensive information on everyday citizens and their families prior to the final collapse of the Communist dictatorship in 1989, and how the Stasi Archive manages this wealth of top secret material today.
Thursday 5th September (evening: 7.30pm): ‘Oral Histories of the Cold War’. This event will have journalist and BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Bridget Kendall explore the Cold War through the eyes of those who experienced it first-hand, and how in particular it was experienced by ordinary people.
Friday 13th September (2.00pm): ‘On the Trail of Klaus Fuchs, Atomic Spy’. In this session the Cold War exhibition curator Mark Dunton will delve into Security Service (MI5) files to uncover how the British authorities managed to unmask Klaus Fuchs, arguably the most important atomic spy of the 20th century, who had passed nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union.
For more details on the Cold War season and information on ticket prices and availability, see: nationalarchives.gov.uk/coldwar
Facebook: facebook.com/the national archives
The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9-4DU
Nearest tube station: Kew Gardens Station – District Line and London Overground