Mission and Identity
The mission of the Wende Museum is to preserve Cold War history, inspire a broad understanding of the period, and explore its enduring legacy. Named for the transformative period leading up to and following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Museum
- collects and preserves art work, artifacts, archives, films, and personal histories from Cold-War era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union;
- challenges and engages the public through experimental exhibitions and interdisciplinary programming inspired by the collection;
- illuminates the past and informs the present through creative collaborations with contemporary artists and designers; and
- promotes rigorous scholarship, educates students, and stimulates general interest through lectures, symposia and publications.
"Wende," a German word meaning "turning point," refers to the collapse of communist East Germany in 1989 and the creation of a reunified German state a year later. The term more broadly represents the end of Soviet communism and the beginning of a new epoch in Eastern Europe and Soviet Bloc countries, an era marked by political changes with profound social and cultural consequences. In many ways, the “Wende” continues, making it an ideal name for a museum devoted to the Cold War-era and its present and future ramifications.
Examining the history of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union can be fraught with political and personal bias, and the complex, often contradictory stories that underlie the Museum’s artifacts may provoke uncomfortable questions. The Museum’s location in Los Angeles provides independence and critical distance from current political debates in Europe, and also facilitates the questioning of preconceived ideas about our past and present. Moreover, the Museum’s physical remoteness from Central and Eastern Europe has enabled it to attract significant artifacts and collections that might otherwise have been destroyed as a result of emotional and political reactions.