The Exhibition

The Reactor Room: An Immersive Chornobyl Exhibition is a digital installation featuring the work of students in Professor José Vergara’s course RUSSB220 Chornobyl taught at Bryn Mawr College (Fall 2023) and RUSS043 Chernobyl: Nuclear Narratives and the Environment at Swarthmore College, as well as projects developed by the Bryn Mawr Digital Scholarship Summer Fellows (Summer 2023). The exhibit is located in the 3rd Floor Atrium of Park Science Center at Bryn Mawr College.

To provide audiences with a sense of nuclear essentials, the DSSFs produced a “basics” exhibit exploring the history, science, and future of nuclear power, a perennial controversial topic worth understanding. The goal of this part of the project is to provide readers with information needed to draw informed conclusions in order to enhance their experience of the overall Reactor Room.

This interactive exhibition seeks to facilitate public engagement with the Chornobyl catastrophe and its associated mythology. Students produced public-facing digital projects that investigate diverse aspects of Chornobyl’s cultural, environmental, social, and political consequences. As you navigate through this installation, you will encounter maps that visually trace the radioactive fallout from Chornobyl. You will meet some of the key figures who experienced, survived, and perpetrated one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. You will engage with the sounds and silences associated with Chornobyl. You will be taken on a virtual tour of street art in Prypiat, read annotated poetry translations, see the catastrophe through the paranoid lens of conspiracy theories, and consider the disaster’s ongoing and unquantifiable impact on plant and animal life. Individually, these projects are snapshots that reflect the fragmented narratives and memories of Chornobyl. Together, they invite you to become an active participant in the study of Chornobyl’s collective mythology.

Statement of Solidarity

The organizers of this project strongly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We have watched in horror as Putin’s regime has waged war against a peaceful, sovereign nation, and we hope for peace to be restored as soon as possible.

We urge those who are able to donate to Razom for Ukraine.

A Note on Language

We launched this project in spring 2020. At that time, it was standard practice, at least in the West, to use spellings of Ukrainian names based on Russian transliteration — a colonial legacy. The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022 prompted a reconsideration of these practices. Accordingly, we have switched to the Ukrainian spelling of places such as Kyiv and Chornobyl throughout the website.

However, there are a few exceptions. Proper names, for example book titles, that use the Chernobyl spelling remain unchanged. Likewise, student projects produced before February 2022 that use these spellings have not been altered to respect their creators’ work. In most cases, we are not currently in contact with these authors and thus cannot ask about the possibility of an update.

Project Team

  • José Vergara, Project Director and Assistant Professor of Russian
  • Hilde Nelson, Project Manager and Digital Scholarship Graduate Assistant
  • Bronwen Densmore, Makerspace Coordinator
  • Alice McGrath, Senior Digital Scholarship Specialist
  • Sean Keenan, Educational Technology Specialist
  • Soaad Elbahwati and Cameron Boucher, EaST Assistants

Digital Scholarship Summer Fellows icon

  • Mst. Fariha Tasnim Busra
  • Katya Little
  • Ksenia Mats
  • Leela Smelser
  • Skye Zhong

Additional Contributors

At Bryn Mawr, special thanks to Joyce Angelucci, Jennifer Coval, Karina Gonzalez, Selby Hearth, Carrie Robbins, Laura Surtees, Arleen Zimmerle, and Bryn Mawr Library & Information Technology Services.

This project was supported by a Digital Bryn Mawr Project Grant.

At Swarthmore, special thanks to Scott Cassidy, Susan Dreher, Pam Harris, Doug Herren, Mike Jones, Nabil Kashyap, Michael Forster Rothbart, Bethanne Seufert, Grace Sewell, Jacquie Tull, Roberto Vargas, John Word, the Swarthmore Environmental Studies Program, the Global Studies Program, Swarthmore Libraries, and the Provost’s Office.

The original version of this page was written by Grace Sewell and updated with her kind permission.

Site supported by Digital Scholarship at Bryn Mawr College