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The Mission of the Wende Museum: Preserve, Inspire, Explore

The mission of the Wende Museum is to preserve Cold War art, culture, and history from the Soviet Bloc countries, inspire a broad understanding of the period, and explore its enduring legacy.

Named for the Wende (pronounced “venda”), a German word meaning “turning point” or “change” that has come to describe the transformative period leading up to and following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Wende Museum:

  • collects and preserves artwork, artifacts, archives, films, and personal histories from Cold War–era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union relating to the period 1945–1991;
  • 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.

The Vision of the Wende Museum 2016-2018: Transformation

Recognizing the Wende Museum’s growing stature since its foundation in 2002, the City of Culver City has provided the 1949 National Guard Armory building and grounds to the Museum for 75 years.

The Museum’s vision is to seize the opportunity provided by the move into the Armory in 2017 to fully implement its experimental approach to making the history of this period relevant to today’s audiences, and to achieve financial sustainability.

The Armory building is where the two industries that powered the economy of Southern California in the post-World War II period – defense and movies – converged. The defense industry was moved into high gear by the Cold War; the movie industry promoted, shaped, and later also criticized Cold War politics and culture. A building once designed to prepare for World War III will now be reimagined as a cultural center for preserving and interpreting Cold War art and history.


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 Culver City, California, 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.