I’ve been visiting Los Angeles and Orange County museums for a number of years – taking advantage of the variety and numbers of museums in the area whenever time permits. A few days ago I had the opportunity to visit the Wende Museum located in a suite in an unassuming business park in Culver City. All visits are arranged in advance by appointment only. Wende, in German means “turning point,” making reference to the fall of Communism. The focus of the museum is on the Cold War between the years of 1945 to 1991. While a number of “cold war” museums focus on a specific regions or a single perspective of the cold war, the Wende Museum takes a broader approach. Their focus is on Eastern Europe with much of their items from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or East Germany. The museum has over 70,000 objects in their permanent collection of which only about 1% is on display at any one time.
The museum was founded by Justinian Jampol in 2002; He is a Los Angeles local who grew up in the city and developed an acute interest in the Cold War while a graduate student at Oxford University (he was only 11 at the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989). While pursuing his interest in the Cold War he found a central location for related memorabilia and research was lacking. He has since collected thousands of related pieces including sizeable parts of the Berlin Wall, one of which sits in the office park directly in front of the museum. Ten more large pieces are lined up near the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax (5900 Wilshire).
The museum collects everyday items as well as iconic items. One part of the museum displays social realism paintings. Other parts of the museum explore the process and what led to the the destruction of the cold war. A number of former GDR leader Erich Honecker’s personal items and papers are in the collection.
They have large collections of books and photographs – with over 8000 volumes in their library alone and an extensive collection of newspapers from Neues Deutschland, the official newspaper of the GDR. The museum needs more space; plans are currently in the works for a much larger museum. Visit: www.wendemuseum.org
View Justin speaking about Wende Museum
Credit two photos below: Coleman-Rayner/Glen McCurtayne