Cold War relics found - and eaten - at UM - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Cold War relics found - and eaten - at UM

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The Cold War saw a world divided and fearful over the prospect of nuclear annihilation.  It also sparked the technological innovation needed to put mankind among the stars. 

Now, the University of Montana's Mansfield Library is showcasing relics of that bygone age, which recently got an unexpected – and edible – addition.

In an out-of-the-way closet on the top floor of UM's Aber Hall, hundreds of boxes have been lying dormant for half a century.  Due to renovations to the building, this veritable time capsule is being opened, revealing potentially thousands of Cold War biscuits and candies -- and the timing couldn't be better.

"We've been planning this exhibit for over a year, and then to find out that there was this sort of bonanza of cold war materials hidden in Aber Hall was absolutely perfect!" said Mansfield Library Government Documents Librarian Susanne Caro.

The exhibit is called Duck and Cover!  Fact and Fiction of the Nuclear Age.  It's featured prominently on the main floor of UM's Mansfield Library.  Caro, who curated the exhibit, says it highlights life in an era of uncertainty.

"It gives you an idea of what people were living through or living with at that time," she explained.

Cold War rations were stored in and around fallout shelters nationwide just in case Soviet bombs came thundering down.  The food was expected to have a shelf life of about five years, but, as Caro can attest, "it's gone quite a bit farther than that!"

Included in the rations are little yellow candies called carbohydrate supplements. They were made in 1962, but are still edible today. "It's basically just pure sugar candy, so there's not a lot there to go bad," Caro explained.

So the candy is still fine, but what about the biscuits?  How have they held up over the decades?  Caro can tell you. "I took a taste of one; It's like a stale graham cracker with a hint of vanilla in it.  It could be far worse."

It's not uncommon for improperly stored Cold War rations to go rancid. So, what's the best way to determine if your Cold War cookies are still good to go? "There was a sniff test first before anyone took a bite!" Caro assured us.

Beyond determining whether or not food from the 1960s is still edible, Caro says there is a lot to be learned from studying life in the Cold War.  She says shelters, evacuation plans, and yes, food storage techniques can be used to survive disasters today.

"What would you do if you had to evacuate because of a forest fire or a flood or some other natural disaster?  So I think a lot of it is still pertinent," said Caro.

You can check out the exhibit on the main floor of the Mansfield Library until the end of July.

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