The Wende Museum of the Cold War was founded by Justinian Jampol, a native of Los Angeles and scholar of modern European history, to address the wholesale neglect and rampant destruction of Cold War material culture in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
During the early 1990s, these materials that document an entire cultural history of what life was like in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, were rapidly disappearing. Historical landmarks were being torn down, statues vandalized, consumer products discarded, film and photographs left to deteriorate and archives actively destroyed.
The Wende Museum collection originated with items acquired by Mr. Jampol in the mid-1990s and quickly expanded in 2000 with a significant donation by activist Alwin Nachtweh and his partner Ulrike Wolf. The Museum was incorporated in the State of California in 2002 as 501(c)3.
Then in 2004, the Museum took a transformative leap forward when the Arcadia Fund awarded it operational and acquisition funding with a mandate “to make a significant and necessary contribution to the illumination of a fascinating, yet still largely unexamined, era.” With this support, the Museum was able to initiate a sweeping campaign to acquire, preserve and provide access to threatened cultural materials of Cold War Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In 2006, the Museum expanded its collecting mission to include documenting personal histories from the era. See Historical Witness Project.
What began as a grass-roots acquisition initiative and a warehouse of crated artifacts has quickly grown into a museum and research institution at the forefront of its field. The Museum’s collection of more than 100,000 artifacts, archives and personal histories is recognized as an unparalleled resource for insight into the Eastern perspective of the Cold War. (See Museum Collection.) The collection further serves as inspiration for the Museum’s educational programming which explores the complicated legacy of the Cold War and its relevance to contemporary social and political issues. (See the Museum Programs.)
A small portion of the collection is currently on view to the general public at the Museum’s headquarters in Culver City as well as online. The entire collection is accessible by appointment for research by scholars, students, journalists, artists and others interested in utilizing the vast array of primary source materials. The Museum’s programming, including exhibitions, events, conferences, coursework, film series and a variety of other activities, is offered locally and at partner institutions throughout the United States and Europe.
No other museum or archive is actively acquiring the artifacts The Wende Museum collects. In fact, many museums in Europe are actually de-accessioning works of art and artifacts from the Cold War era. The Wende Museum will continue to acquire, expanding its efforts to reach ever deeper into smaller and rural communities, focusing particularly on materials at-risk or on the periphery of traditional archival interests. (See Core Strengths.) Its preservation efforts ensure that not only present but future generations are able to more comprehensively investigate the Cold War era, re-evaluate historical interpretations and make assessments within the context of evolving circumstances.
The Museum’s emergence and rapid growth has paralleled a dramatic rise in academic, media and general public interest in the lived experience of communist Eastern Europe. As a result, the Museum faces an increased demand for expanded programming and access to its collection. The Wende Museum welcomes your support and involvement in shaping the Museum’s future and ensuring its continued success in meeting this growing need.
The Wende Museum is the recipient of the efforts and support of its many employees, interns, volunteers, funders and friends, and particularly wishes to recognize the Arcadia Fund and the following individuals who were instrumental in making an inspiration into a reality: John Ahouse, Stephanie Barron, Doris Beiersdorf, Andreas Bernard, Kamilla Blanche, Benita Blessing, David Bomford, John Brady, Jill Buresh, Christine Byers, Jane Caplan, Daniel Chaffey, Martin Cole, Wolfgang Drautz, Geoff Eley, Jeri Chase Ferris, David Franklin, Thomas Gaehtgens, Harriet Glickman, Edward Goldman, Joanna Gorska, John Gray, Doug Greenberg, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Beate Humann, Nicolas Jampol, Robin Jampol, Gail Kligman, Kelly Ann Kolar, Yelena Kravtsova, Lars Leymann, Heather Loyd, Andreas Ludwig, Kevin McCarthy, Darryl McIntyre, Lothar Mueller, Barry Munitz, John Nachbar, Neal Narahara, Thierry Noir, Michael Ott, Dan Picciotto, Clara Polley, Erika Polley, Timothy Prus, Rodney Punt, Gregory Rodriguez, Martin Roth, Hannelore Schmidt, Joes Segal, Leonard Schmieding, Jeff Spiegel, Christian Stocks, Barry Supple, Angela Thompson, Lawrence Weschler, Katja Zelljadt and Anke Zindler.