Article ID: CBB685140411

The Ingredients of a Successful Atomic Exhibition in Cold War Italy (2023)


The organization of the mobile atomic exhibition, Mostra Atomica, designed by the United States Information Service to travel through Italy in 1954–55, had to meet technical, scientific, artistic, and political challenges. The head of the group in charge of the exhibition was architect Peter G. Harnden whose pedigree in the intelligence and training in architecture were an ideal match for leading the unit dedicated to exhibitions. The political sensitivity of the Mostra Atomica also required the intervention of the Italian Ministry of the Interior to guarantee safe mobility and secure shows. In every major town, American and British diplomats attended the local opening ceremony, while the very symbol of science diplomacy was Enrico Fermi, whose recorded message praised international cooperation. All in all, the USIS campaign promoting peaceful applications of nuclear physics was successful in reaching and involving Italian society. Visual and spatial aesthetics were particularly relevant: the geometrical design of the exposition rooms conveyed a strong sense of modernity that contrasted with the artistic heritage of Italian cities. The present article is based on archival files, newspaper reports, and photographs that document who was responsible for planning, setting up, and reporting this Cold War propaganda event.

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Authors & Contributors
Rentetzi, Maria
Donatella Germanese
Cioci, Vincenzo
Hoerlin, Bettina
Sastre Juan, Jaume
Roger J. C. Thomas
Journal of Popular Culture
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
History and Technology
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Diplomatic History
Luigi Pellegrini Editore
Raffaello Cortina Editore
W. W. Norton & Co.
University of Pittsburgh Press
Oxford University Press
Nuclear power; atomic energy
Cold War
Nuclear weapons; atomic weapons
Science and politics
Atomic bomb
Fermi, Enrico
Szilard, Leo
Seaborg, Glenn T.
Rasetti, Franco
Einstein, Albert
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century
21st century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain
Atlantic Ocean
New York City (New York, U.S.)
South Africa
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Hanford Nuclear Site (Washington)

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