Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Cold War Study Centers, U.S

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent declassification of Russian archives, Cold War scholarship has burgeoned in the United States and abroad. Several centers have emerged with the mission of fostering Cold War studies. One of the first was the National Security Archive, founded in 1985 with its headquarters at George Washington University's Gelman Library. The archive, funded largely by private donations, has concentrated on collecting and making available declassified U.S. government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. By 2000, the National Security Archive had consolidated its place as the foremost nongovernmental repository for such materials.

Complementary to the efforts of the National Security Archive has been the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP), begun in 1991 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. The CWIHP concentrates in part on accessing the records of former communist regimes as their successor governments open their archives. The CWIHP hosts Cold War conferences, sponsors focused publications, and assembles document collections from both sides of the Iron Curtain on such key events as the Korean War, the 1956 Suez Crisis, the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the 1980–1981 Polish crisis.

With the end of the Soviet Union and the opening of its archives and those of its satellites, a flood of documentary information has recently become available. To organize this vast body of evidence, Sovietologists founded the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies (HPCWS), which houses the materials at the Widener and Lamont Libraries as well as the HPCWS offices. Seeking to glean lessons for the present from the Cold War era, the HPCWS sponsors a book series that has produced such titles as Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948 (2001) and Resistance with the People: Repression and Resistance in Eastern Germany, 1945–1955 (2003). In 1999 the HPCWS began publication of the peer-reviewed Journal of Cold War Studies that features articles based on newly available evidence from both Eastern and Western sources.

Established in 1996 by Francis Gary Powers Jr., the son of the famed U-2 pilot, the National Cold War Museum and Memorial seeks to preserve records and artifacts from the conflict. A prime objective of the organization is the acquisition of a Nike missile base at Lorton, Virginia, for development as a museum and archive. One early initiative was to send a traveling exhibit of U-2 artifacts on a worldwide tour to attract support for the construction of the museum headquarters.

A number of other organizations look at the Cold War through a narrower lens. Texas Tech University in Lubbock houses the Vietnam Center. Since its beginning in 1989, the center has amassed one of the largest collections of materials on Vietnam, from the early days of French colonial rule to the very recent past. The center catalogs 8 million pages of manuscript materials and 12 million pages of documents on microfilm. It has also conducted hundreds of oral history interviews. To make access easier for scholars, the center has put many of these records on the Internet.

Preserving materials on the Korean War is a similar, albeit smaller, organization: the Center for the Study of the Korean War located at Graceland University in Independence, Missouri. It too gathers manuscript materials and conducts interviews of veterans of the conflict.

In 2001 the Department of History at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, set up the John A. Adams Center of Military History and Strategic Analysis to "promote innovation in military history and strategic studies." As the center took shape, it began to focus principally on military aspects, broadly defined, of the Cold War with special emphasis on America's armed forces. Among the center's initiatives have been the organization of conferences on the Cold War, the sponsorship of prizes for Cold War scholarship, and the collection and dissemination of the recollections of Cold War veterans of all U.S. armed forces.

In 2002 the University of Kentucky in Lexington accessioned the Scott Collection, a treasure trove of Soviet military materials. Gathered during two tours of duty in Moscow by Colonel William F. Scott and his wife, Harriet, the collection contains thousands of books and pamphlets on the Soviet defense establishment, doctrine, and equipment.

Malcolm Muir Jr.


Further Reading
Cold War International History Project Bulletin. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, 1998.
 

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