Blast doors from East Kilbride’s secret bunker go on display at National Museum

-Credit: (Image: National Museums Scotland)
-Credit: (Image: National Museums Scotland)

Two steel blast doors from East Kilbride’s secret Cold War bunker will go on display for the first time in a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.

Opening next week Cold War Scotland (July 13 - January 26, 2025) will explore the lives of ordinary Scots on the frontline of this global conflict.

Scotland’s unique combination of geography and topography provided a useful base for Allied military preparations and research during the Cold War, a 40-year nuclear stand-off between the USA and the Soviet Union following the end of the Second World War.

The pair of huge doors come from an Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) in East Kilbride, part of a network of underground bunkers built to defend vulnerable targets against air attack in the early 1950s. AAORs would have provided Scotland’s first line of defence in the event of a nuclear attack.

Blast doors from an Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) in East Kilbride -Credit:National Museums Scotland
Blast doors from an Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) in East Kilbride -Credit:National Museums Scotland

As military strategy changed, these spaces were used for civil defence. East Kilbride’s bunker became the Scottish Civil Defence Western Zone Control base in the 1960s and later the Western Zone Regional Government Headquarters.

Cold War Scotland will explore both the visible and invisible legacies of the Cold War. First hand testimonies will reveal the ways in which the war lingers in Scottish politics, culture and memory, and remarkable objects illustrate the unseen impact of radiation on Scotland’s landscape. The exhibition will also highlight the physical remains of the Cold War; the ruined bases, forgotten bunkers and decommissioned nuclear power stations still evident across the country.

Dr Meredith Greiling, Principal Curator of Technology at National Museums Scotland, said: "From nuclear submarines to lively peace protests and observation stations perpetually monitoring for devastating attack, the Cold War permeated every aspect of life in Scotland for decades.

"We are delighted to be able to display these blast doors for the first time and reveal this little-known aspect of East Kilbride’s past. We hope visitors to the exhibition are inspired to learn more about this fascinating period in Scottish history.”

The exhibition will be supported by a book and programme of events including curator tours and talks.

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