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Special Collection

The Cold War was an historical period beginning with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine on March 12, 1947, and ending with the fall and dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991, during which an era of frequently escalating nuclear tensions, proxy warfare, and espionage ensued between the United States and the USSR.

It was a complex, multidimensional historical period—the Cold War was many things, and it cannot be adequately described in a single work or from a single perspective. It is the intention of the DC Public Library and this collection’s administrators to offer many perspectives on the subject of the Cold War, and to employ a thorough, balanced approach to their curation.

Preparation and Defense

Learn how the Cold War affected the lives of everyday citizens. Discover the lengths to which people in the United States went to protect themselves in the event of World War III. Study the civil defense efforts of both world powers.


See how the two superpowers got along with each other--and how they didn't. Learn about the treaties that the US and Soviet Union entered into (including a meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan that almost led to the abolition of nuclear weapons). Learn about how the countries fought each other by proxy.

The Space Race

Explore the history of the competitive race to the stars between the United States and Soviet Union--from the Gemini and Apollo programs to Sputnik and the Russian Cosmonauts.


Find out about the spies and operatives who worked covertly behind enemy lines to extract state secrets and military data.

For Research or Casual Browsing

Resources in the collection range from those for the academic researcher to those catering to the casual reader.

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