Rise of the Shadow Libraries: America’s Quest to Save Its Information and Culture from Nuclear Destruction during the Cold War


This article argues that the ultimate goal of American doomsday planners during the Cold War was to defend informational and cultural materials from nuclear destruction. American leaders of the time hoped to protect the vital documents that the nation would need to function after a war, as well as safeguard materials related to the nation’s cultural heritage. Planners used vaulting, dispersal, and duplication as their three main protection strategies, and these strategies gave rise to “shadow libraries,” remote storage facilities often constructed underground.