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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bookending the Cold War at the Churchill Museum

"Where were you when the wall fell?" Well, twenty years ago I was heading with a bunch of folks from the student newspaper to the Investigative Reporters and Editors College Conference in Washington, D.C. -- so around the time the wall was falling, I was actually driving around lost in our nation's capital. (And for all the excitement around the world, it seemed dead as the proverbial doornail that night.)

Thus I missed most of the news that day -- as well as the premiere of the episode of Cheers where Eddie is run over by a Zamboni-brand Zamboni. Fortunately, I caught up on these important events later on. But traveling through Missouri this weekend -- almost twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall -- it seemed a good time to stop in Fulton, Missouri, to visit the Winston Churchill Memorial.

If you're wondering about the relevance of a Churchill Musuem here, wonder no more: It was here that Churchill delivered the famous "Iron Curtain" speech. On the campus of Westminster College, the musuem is housed in the lower section of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a 12th century church from the middle of London that, after being redesigned in 1677, was relocated to Fulton.

Six panels from the Berlin Wall are on the plaza outside; several world leaders have spoken at the site, including Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The museum serves multiple functions. There's a lot of material about Churchill the man -- including a look at a replica office and his painting materials -- but then there's also a lot on the history of his times, from the Great War to World War II to the Cold War. Then there's material on the history of the church above. It's a pretty wide sweep of topics for Midwest-bound Anglophiles.

I've read a lot of Churchill's writings over the years -- apart from the inside look at some of the events he personally was involved with, he has a very readable writing style. The six-volume history of World War II is definitely worth a look; they're fairly easy to find online. And if you're in the center of the country, the Memorial is worth a look, too

I don't regret too much being anywhere special twenty years ago; we did get to meet Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein at the conference. So there was a brush with history -- just frmo a completely different period...
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