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Culver City's Wende Museum explores the human side of the Cold War

Wende Museum founder Justinian Jampol
Wende Museum founder Justinian Jampol
Courtesy Wende Museum

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The Wende Museum in Culver City preserves the history of the Cold War, but not with weapons, letters or treaties. Instead, the Wende shows visitors how everyday citizens lived on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Off-Ramp intern Lainna Fader visited the museum and talked with Justinian Jampol, the museum's founder.

The museum houses over 60,000 items including books, archival documents, art in different mediums, furniture, films, periodicals and photos from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union from 1945-1991. The museum makes its entire collection available by appointment for research to scholars, students, journalists, artists and others interested in using their primary sources. Currently, only a small portion of the collection is available for general viewing.

“Some of the most interesting parts of history were not found in the archives. Many things having to do with everyday life simply were not represented,” says museum founder Justinian Jampol. Through his travels and interactions in Europe, Jampol realized that the personal artifacts he came across in flea markets and people’s homes told the story of the human experience during the Cold War, and were in need of a home.

Jampol found that home in Culver City. The museum’s distance from Europe allowed him to acquire objects that might otherwise be destroyed, due to the often painful memories they arouse.

“The museum is a response to the preservation policies in Europe,” Jampol says, “These materials, while they’re only 20 years old, there’s still a hesitation to recognize this as being historically important.”

The need to protect and share the personal stories behind the artifacts drives Jampol’s efforts. As an example , he points to the demolition of the Berlin Wall, which was almost entirely ground up and used for road-building material. He says he recognizes that painful associations with the wall, which separated families and friends for years, might have made it easier for Germans to demolish and erase, but maintains that an understanding of its historical significance needs to be preserved for future generations.

KPCC's Fareeha Molvi contributed to this report