Protect and Survive: Britain’s Cold War Revealed

The National Archives, London

Decades before the chaotic fragmentation of international politics, we (the West) had one clear enemy - the terrifying prospect of a marauding imperial communist nuclear power. With this in mind the UK government asked people to wrap up in bin liners and hide in the cellar. A DIY kit on how to survive nuclear war seems like a cruel charade in hindsight. 

The National Archives hosted this immersive exhibition that recreated a government bunker on one side, and a typical period living room (complete with DIY fallout shelter) on the other. 

Bomb spec, MI6 spy files and Churchill’s memos, Laura Ashley wallpaper, Threads and tins of corned beef all play prominent roles.

The design of the labels referenced the ubiquitous record cards found in the archives, using Bliss (not Gill Sans) as a nod to the typical typeface of government communications. 

The gallery was divided into two zones: a government bunker and a typical British home c.1980, ‘ready’ for nuclear fallout.  

Visualisations of the cork noticeboards. Each piece was printed seperately, or was an original item from the collection.  

Spy files and travel passes. Reproductions of the actual MI6 files on the Cambridge five that were used an interactive items, featuring facsimiles and scans from the MI6.  A joy to work on.