Interesting article in the Times today about Berlin's new DDR Museum. Peter Kenzelmann, the museum's founder and director, has gathered together nearly 10,000 East German objects (from condoms to cars to surveillance machinery) and has even created period rooms in order to capitalize on the current, very complicated "Ostalgie" that Germans feel for the former German Democratic Republic. While most Germans are certainly pleased that the Berlin Wall is no more, many feel a longing for the more superficial, commercial aspects of the GDR. In the past couple years, particularly after the nostalgia-drenched Goodbye Lenin! came out in 2003, there's been an increased, somewhat ironic, interest in GDR food products, film, TV shows, music, etc. Clubs have "GDR " nights, there are GDR tours of Berlin, people are fighting to preserve and renovate communist-era houses.
What caught our eye in this article was a mention of a GDR museum in Culver City, California called the Wende Museum. Waaaa? Some guy named Justinian Jampol, while a grad student at Oxford, decided to turn his enormous collection of East German artifacts into a museum in California. Right on!
According to the museum's web site:
"Using the artifacts contained in the collection we have nearly reconstructed the infamous Checkpoint Charlie border crossing in Berlin. The Museum possesses all of the border guard log books from when the Berlin Wall collapsed on November 9, 1989 as well as the personal notes and musings of East German leader Erich Honecker. The Museum maintains entire archival collections of newspapers, diaries, and artwork. The exhibition rooms feature massive socialist realist oil paintings and important bronze busts of former leaders. We can follow the history of oppression in the Soviet Bloc through the investigation of countless secret police files and torture equipment contained in the collection. The Museum boasts thousands of socialist gifts and awards that were presented to foreign leaders and common factory workers as vehicles of ideological dissemination. It is our mission to preserve this lost political language in our efforts to learn more about a unique and extinct society."
We will now leave you with a) the photo above of GDR darling Katarina Witt and b) the Berlin Tourist Board's "Ostaligia Tour," which you can download as a PDF. Go get em tigers.