Journal Article

Do-It-Yourself Security:

Sarah A. Lichtman

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 19, issue 1, pages 39-55
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI:
Do-It-Yourself Security:

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At the height of the cold war, from the 1950s to the early 1960s, the United States government embarked on a series of civil defence initiatives centred on the home fallout shelter. Calling on ‘American’ traits of enterprise and independence, shelter advocates sought an accessible and pleasurable way to help citizens prepare for nuclear war by transforming the home fallout shelter into an ideologically charged national do-it-yourself project. The government requested citizens to furnish their own security, and fallout shelters presented homeowners with a do-it-yourself activity that combined home improvement with family safety. Do-it-yourself provided both men and women with traditionally gender-appropriate tasks that strengthened domestic identity and offered a sense of contained purpose and control in increasingly uncertain times. Such expectations were carried into the construction of the home fallout shelter and perpetuated gender stereotypes in the post-nuclear world—literally building them into a concrete form. Despite public and private initiatives, however, fallout shelters permeated America's post-war consciousness more than its physical landscape; few Americans actually built shelters. Nevertheless, do-it-yourself helped promote the idea of security, while revealing larger cold war insecurities of daily life.

Keywords: cold war; do-it-yourself; domesticity; domestic space; fallout shelter; gender

Journal Article.  11077 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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