Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: A lot of people would say that the Cold War is over.  Haven’t we moved on?

A: Yes and no.

The context has changed in some important ways.  For example, one of the key defining factors of the Cold War, the realistic possibility that nuclear weapons might be used by one of the superpowers, is no longer a factor in major actor competitions.  And the role of non-state actors in political and military violence, whether as guerrillas or terrorists, has vastly increased.

But many of the chief elements of Cold War competition are still very much with us.  Some of those include:

  • Major power competition expressed chiefly as a silent war of intelligence and disguised propaganda rather than direct military confrontation;
  • Proxy wars around the world, where major power competition takes the form of backing smaller powers or groups who do all or the bulk of the actual hot war fighting;
  • Disinformation of all types, not only in developing countries where the major powers are competing for influence but also in the political processes of developed countries, which during the early phases of the Cold War took the form of covertly undermining the restoration of democratic political processes, successfully in Eastern Europe, and unsuccessfully in most of Germany, France, Italy, and Greece, thanks in large part to the Marshall Plan;
  • Covert support for authoritarian regimes on a major power’s borders, to create a controlled buffer zone, effectively extending a major power’s borders.
  • Covert action within an opponent’s borders, not only for intelligence-gathering but also to undermine the opponent’s perceived political and economic strengths.

And our citizens are not well-equipped to think about that competition.  Knowledge of the Cold War period has declined, as new generations with no personal experience of it have arisen.  In particular, citizen understanding of Cold War history, and of history generally, has declined. This decreases citizen ability to make accurate judgements about the relative importance of different policy choices this country should make, and about why particular other countries make the policy choices they make. 

For example, not just recently but for hundreds of years Russia has sought to maximize, through de facto control of Eastern Europe, the effective depth of its borders with the West, stemming in part from its history of multiple deep invasions, including by the Mongols, the Swedes, the Teutonic Knights, the French under Napoleon, and Germany under Hitler, and its loss of more than 20 million people in WWII.   

 

Q: The Cold War Museum is young but can you point to some specific achievements to date? 

A: Yes, many specific things that help fulfil our mission, including:

  •  A strong online presence, with much content on particular Cold War topics, to serve students at all levels and educate at a distance.
  • A physical museum at Vint Hill, VA, on the site of a former Top Secret Army signals intelligence base, displays and educates through many rare and unique artifacts, chiefly relating to Cold War signals and image intelligence.
  • The Museum is staffed and directed largely by former Cold War professionals and other experts, who use these artifacts and firsthand accounts of individuals to inform about Cold War events and some of the basic intelligence and foreign policy themes they embody.  The Real People Explaining the Real Things.
  • We’ve begun to recognize and honor the work of those who served professionally in Cold War activities in multiple ways including:
    • Providing exhibit labeling in the museum that recognizes the contributions of particular individuals, where such people can be named, and showing how those individuals are representative of many others who can’t be named for various reasons.
    • Honoring particular people in our newsletters.
    • Developing plans for both an online and a physical memorial wall for people who served as Cold War professionals.
  • And we use our artifacts and experts to show how intelligence informs policy.  We already use the Museum’s artifacts, organization, and eye-witness accounts to educate coming generations, via Cold War history, about how intelligence informs foreign policy, diplomacy, and military action, so that citizens can be better-informed when making decisions about the relative importance of these policy areas.

 Here are some of the ways that we do that:

      • In our Museum tours, we talk about how particular intelligence data informed such things as
        • Negotiations with the Soviets over grain sales, when our satellites and other image intelligence (IMINT) platforms gave us better information about Soviet grain harvests than they had.
        • How timely analysis of IMINT gathered over Cuba revealed the Soviet missile buildup in time to prevent its expansion.
        • How analysis of photos of Mao, using “Mao’s Ear,” the CIA-built model of his ear (which the Museum owns and displays), helped analyze his actual health and actual public appearances (as opposed to appearances by his many doubles).
      • In the Museum’s Presentation Series, where eyewitnesses to key Cold War and related events provide their first-hand accounts to public audiences, we both recognize and honor those eyewitnesses and put the audience in their shoes at those events, such as the 1991 attempted coup against Gorbachev, flying the U-2 and SR-71 surveillance aircraft, explaining what famous moles and defectors were like, etc.

 

Q: How is the public reacting to the Museum?

A: Thousands of people have visited the Museum over the past five years, from bus tours to individual walk-ins.  This is remarkable considering the Museum’s rural location and the few hours, mostly on the weekends, what the Museum is open.  And many people make return visits to the building because of the large number of exhibits to view and the addition of new artifacts on an almost weekly basis.  If you would like to see some of the comments that visitors have spontaneously made, please click here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/cold-war-museum-vint-hill

The Museum’s artifacts have largely been provided by the public, from all parts of the country and even overseas.  Cold War veterans and their families seek us out to find a good home for their personal Cold War-era items, even heirlooms with emotional attachments.  We are honored to preserve these personal artifact treasures as a means to teach Cold War history.  We are trusted by this public, and as the word spreads about us the museum becomes even more “crowd-sourced.”

Q: What’s keeping the Cold War Museum from reaching its full potential?

A: Our current all-volunteer structure makes progress very slow.  For example, we can currently only be open to the public on weekends, and via private tours by arrangement.  In the near term, we need the funds to provide support at least a few full-time employees, to assure sufficient time-on-task to increase our rate of progress towards steady fundraising and growth in both physical size and mission-fulfillment capacity.

Lack of space prevents telling Cold War history systematically.  We have an ever-growing number of artifacts but not the space to display them.

Lack of staff time and funds for publicity prevents wide visibility and therefore broad reach.

Lack of staff time and funds for fundraising hinders every other part of our mission fulfillment at this time.

Q: How can I learn more?

  • Access our current and past newsletters that we provide to the Museum’s Members; they are available here: http://www.coldwar.org/education/coldwar_magazine.asp. Our newsletters are our archive of specific museum activities that fulfill our mission.
  • Visit the Museum.  You could do that during our public hours on the weekends, when we are free for individuals, small family groups, and active-duty military personnel, or by special arrangement during the week.   You could also arrange a private tour by calling Executive Director Jason Hall on his mobile phone (703-283-4124) or emailing him at jason@coldwar.org .
  • Ask the Executive Director.  Dr. Hall will be glad to provide more details on the Museum’s sources of income and vision.
  • Give us your views and we’ll react. If you’ve read this far, you likely share many of our values and have ideas about additional ways to fulfil our mission that we want to hear and consider. We welcome your thoughts as well as your funds to grow the Museum’s ability to tell the Cold War story and show its continuing importance.

 

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The Cold War Museum

P.O. Box 861526

(7142 Lineweaver Road)

Vint Hill, VA 20187

(540) 341-2008

membership@coldwar.org