The Wende Museum’s collection and intellectual activities have achieved notable strength in four areas of specialization: German Democratic Republic; Wende Moments; Personal Histories and Everyday Life; and Public and Private Interaction.
German Democratic Republic (East Germany)
The Wende devotes considerable attention to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a country that experienced the geopolitical ramifications of the Cold War most directly. Nearly seventy-five percent of the objects in the collection originate from the GDR, documenting its interactions with the non-communist West and the divided city of Berlin. The Museum recognizes this material concentration as a core strength and will continue using the history and culture of the GDR as a specific lens through which to observe the larger cultural implications of Cold War-era Eastern European and the Soviet Union. Exploring the GDR further enables observers to study the 'politics of memory'—how history has been debated and contested from multiple perspectives by different groups who have used the history of the Cold War to pursue and legitimize various political goals.
The Museum engages in the discussion of key “Wende moments,” junctions in Cold War history that are marked by pivotal change – beginnings, endings and transformative events – such as the formation of the Warsaw Pact, the fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the evolution of former communist countries to members of a pan-European union. The Museum focuses on these pivotal moments as a means to explore the dynamics of cultural change and its relevance to contemporary audiences.
Personal Histories and Everyday Life
While most of history is written through the perspective of significant events and key leaders, the Museum recognizes that the human record comes not only from official documents or newspapers, but also is preserved through oral histories and material remnants of a more personal nature, such as family photo albums, scrapbooks and home movies. The Museum is particularly interested in how diverse individuals understood and interacted with the world around them, expressed themselves in it, and how this behavior offers insights into larger social values, norms and attitudes. Through its acquisitions and programming, the Museum attempts to reach beyond stereotypes to explore the layered realities of everyday life behind the Iron Curtain.
Public and Private Interaction
The Museum is keenly interested in exploring the complex interplay of state ideology and subjective experience, of official culture and unofficial expression and of political power and private life. By collecting examples of political iconography, the Museum seeks to explore commonalities in symbols, rituals, mass organizations and state-approved creative expression generated across the region. The Museum also documents the resilience of the human spirit and explores the ways that official ideology was subverted, rejected and given new meaning in the private sphere.