The Atomic Age changed the world.
It also added more imagination to popular culture through all mediums.
This is the reason behind “At Play in the Atomic Age,” which opens at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History on Saturday, May 27.
The exhibit will run through Dec. 31.
According to Bernadette Robin, the museum’s director of communications, the exhibit features over 100 artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as a those that are on loan specifically for the exhibit.
“There are toys, games, comic book,” Robin says. “Each item reflects what happened in 1945. There was a huge interest after the atomic bomb was detonated. Toys and games automatically added the word atomic to gauge interest.”
Robin says the Atomic Age was born with the Manhattan Project and blasted into the public’s consciousness in 1945.
Almost as soon as the public became aware of the existence of the bomb, all things “atomic” became marketable.
The promise of a technological future and the threat of nuclear war is reflected in the toys, games, music and books produced. Their makers sought to provide children with the tools to help them to relate to the world around them and prepare them for a potentially bright but uncertain future.
“Atomic-themed toys appeared within weeks of the announcement of the creation of the atomic bomb, and they continue to be produced to this day,” says Jennifer Hayden, CEO and president of the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. “We are excited to share our specially curated exhibit of atomic-themed toy trains with museum guests ranging from an “Atomic Train” of the 1950s to nuclear waste transport railcars from the early 2000s. Displayed games will examine both the military and energy production aspects of nuclear science, and a collection of chemistry and nuclear science kits will look at the educational toys of the atomic age. Books, magazines and comic books will show the impact of the atomic age on children’s literature while examples of popular music and vintage movie posters look at entertainment outside of toys and games.”
Robin says there are some pieces that are part of popular culture today.
“We have Radioactive Man from ‘The Simpsons,’ ” she says. “We also have a piece from My Chemical Romance. These are two examples of the wide variety.”