Mission and Identity
The Wende Museum preserves the cultural artifacts and personal histories of Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to inform and inspire a broad understanding of the period and its enduring legacy.
The Wende Museum is a hybrid organization, simultaneously a three-dimensional archive of material and visual culture and educational institution, fusing interdisciplinary scholarship with its programs. The Museum is independent and facilitates open access to its collection, providing a forum for exploration and engagement, and encouraging diverse interpretations from multiple perspectives.
The collections of the Wende Museum concentrate on preservation of cultural, political artifacts and documentary materials that are at-risk or are critical to scholarly investigation, and personal artifacts and histories that capture the lived experience beneath the ideological battles and geopolitical struggles of the Cold War.
The Wende Museum makes available its collection of more than 100,000 items to scholars, students, artists, educators, journalists and others from around the world. The Museum’s public programs benefit students and life-long learners, as well as the general public, in the local region and throughout the United States and Europe.
"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.