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Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


This public history thesis consists of three main sections that combine to form a complete plan for a museum exhibit on 1950s American fears as seen through the lens of popular culture. In American popular memory, postwar America often emerges as a somewhat simplistic time in which every citizen was mired in conservatism and concerned only for communist spies and nuclear devastation. Though these were very real fears for the majority of the population, their fears also went much deeper than this. Through the museum exhibit medium, this thesis explores fears of loneliness, humanity’s capacity for evil, and societal collapse that occupied the minds of postwar Americans. Horror and science fiction are a uniquely useful medium to explore such fears as each attempts to break down and explore the particular fears and neuroses of its historical moment. Films, television shows, and literature written in the horror and science fiction genre are thus used to explore such fears. The exhibit plan is divided into a research paper, an exhibit brief, and an exhibit script that combine to complicate popular memory concerning 1950s America.

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