Located in an old armory in Culver City, California, the Wende Museum is one of the world’s largest collections of Cold War era items, paraphernalia, artifacts, and archives.
The museum currently houses around 100,000 items, ranging from consumer products to media (including thousands of documentaries and educational films from the era) to Eastern Bloc surveillance equipment.
The surveillance equipment pieces are fascinating examples of how Eastern Bloc governments used to spy on both their enemies and their own citizens. The Wende’s collection includes archaic listening devices, a camera hidden in a pen, fake passports, crude satellites, and examples of surveillance cameras that were commonly used throughout the Communist Bloc.
In 2009, the museum installed ten original Berlin wall segments on Wilshire Blvd, so that it would be more accessible to the public. It is the longest stretch of the original iconic wall outside of Germany. An eleventh segment stands outside of the Wende Museum itself.
Among the other notable artifacts housed in the museum are sickle and hammer tapestries, Eastern Bloc military uniforms, sanctioned government paintings, and an enormous collection of Lenin busts, including the “Pink Lenin,” a bust depicting the infamous leader meticulously painted pink by a political commentato in the days after the collapse of the wall.
For years the Wende Museum was located in an inconspicuous business park, but in 2017 the collection moved to the Armory in Culver City. The Armory was built by the National Guard in 1950 in response to the growing threat of war with the Eastern Bloc countries and was decommissioned in 2011. The Wende Museum was awarded a 75-year lease by the city to house its collection.
The German word “Wende” means “turning point” and refers to the 1989 collapse of the Berlin Wall and communist East Germany.
Know Before You Go
Take the Culver blvd exit from the 405 freeway. Head east on Culver toward the intersection of Culver and Coombs. There you can find ample free parking.