Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum
The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum is a once-top secret, four-storey underground bunker, now a national historic site and the only museum of its kind in Canada.
Designed sixty years ago as the centre for Canada’s defence against nuclear attack, the museum and its stories have a crucial role to play in learning about our past — and helping us to understand the present. The Diefenbunker was commissioned by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1959, as part of continuity of government planning during the height of Cold War tensions. Built between 1959 and 1961, the bunker was meant to house key members of the government and military in the event of a nuclear attack on Canada, allowing the Canadian government to operate safely underground for 30 days.
Fortunately, Canada has never been the target of a nuclear attack, so the Diefenbunker never had to be used as the seat of emergency government. It was, however, used as a military base during its entire operational lifespan, between 1961 and 1994. Known as Canadian Forces Station Carp (CFS Carp), it was staffed 24 hours a day by approximately 100 military and civilian personnel, and played an important role in military telecommunications.
In 1994, CFS Carp was decommissioned and designated a national historic site, in recognition of its significance as Canada’s most important Cold War artifact and its unique underground construction. When the Department of National Defence decommissioned “the Diefenbunker” in 1994, it sold the property to the Township of West Carleton. Fortunately, a group of volunteers (many of them former CFS Carp employees) stepped forward to preserve the building and open it as a museum. The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum was incorporated in 1997 and named a charitable organization in 1998.
We are now Canada’s most significant Cold War artifact and seek to preserve and promote Canada’s Cold War history. The Diefenbunker’s one-of-a-kind experiential learning environment, coupled with its award-winning programs, events, and exhibitions, draws visitors from around the world.
The Diefenbunker museum is governed by a Board of Directors and led by an Executive Director. A full-time professional staff and a corps of volunteers attend, collectively, to the stewardship, vision, growth, and sustainability of this important organization. Welcoming close to 70,000 visitors per year (pre-pandemic), we are an important economic and tourism driver for rural West Ottawa.