National Churchill Museum
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Winston Churchill Memorial
|Architectural style||Renaissance Classical, |
|NRHP reference No.||72000708|
|Added to NRHP||March 16, 1972|
America’s National Churchill Museum (formerly the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library), is located on the Westminster College campus in Fulton, Missouri, United States. The museum commemorates the life and times of Sir Winston Churchill. In 1946, Winston Churchill delivered his famous "Sinews of Peace" address in the Westminster College Historic Gymnasium. In it was the line: "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent." This sentence caused the oration to become known as the "Iron Curtain" speech. "Sinews of Peace" heralded the beginning of the Cold War.
America’s National Churchill Museum comprises three distinct but related elements: the Church of St Mary Aldermanbury, the museum, and the Breakthrough sculpture.
The central element of America’s National Churchill Museum is the Church of St. Mary, Aldermanbury, a 17th-century church moved stone-by-stone to Fulton from the City of London. Today, the church looks much as it did in 1677—carefully restored to recreate the building that architect Christopher Wren designed after the Great Fire of London destroyed the original 12th-century church.
Beneath the church is the Churchill museum, renovated in 2006. Through interactive new exhibits, the museum tells Churchill's story, discussing his personal and political life and his legacy. Additionally, the Clementine-Spencer Churchill Reading Room houses an extensive research collection about Churchill and his era.
Outside the church stands the Breakthrough sculpture, formed from eight sections of the Berlin Wall. Churchill's granddaughter, artist Edwina Sandys, designed the sculpture in order to commemorate both the "Sinews of Peace" speech; the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"The Sinews of Peace": Putting Westminster College and Fulton on the Map
In 1946, Winston Churchill travelled to Westminster College in order to deliver his famous "Sinews of Peace" address as a part of the John Findlay Green Foundation Lecture series. An extraordinary confluence of circumstances conspired to bring Winston Churchill to Westminster. At the time, the College had a unique connection to U.S. President Harry S. Truman's administration—Major General Harry Vaughan, a graduate of Westminster College. College president Franc McCluer asked Vaughan to see what President Truman could do to induce Churchill to come to Westminster. President Truman thought the idea of bringing Churchill to Missouri (Truman's native state) was a wonderful idea. On the bottom of Churchill's invitation from Westminster College Truman wrote: "This is a wonderful school in my home state. Hope you can do it. I will introduce you." So it was that two world leaders, Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman, descended onto the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
Churchill arrived on the Westminster College campus on March 5, 1946 and delivered his address. Churchill's "Sinews of Peace" delineated the complications and tensions of that moment in world history—less than a year after World War II. Churchill had been watching the Soviet Union with increasing concern. Churchill feared another war. "A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory," he said; adding, "whatever conclusion may be drawn from these facts ... this is certainly not the liberated Europe we fought to build up. Nor is it one which contains the essentials of permanent peace." Churchill noted the tensions mounting between Eastern and Western Europe. "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic," he said, "an 'iron curtain' has descended across the continent." Churchill then predicted what he called the formation of the "Soviet sphere."
In order to counterbalance the mounting power of the Soviet Union, Churchill called for a "fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples." Churchill hoped the United States and Britain would work together towards the "permanent prevention of war" and "establish conditions of freedom and democracy" all over the globe. The cooperation of these two nations, he hoped, would create the "sinews of peace." He went on to encourage the leaders of both the United States and Britain to begin peace-talks with the Soviet Union. Churchill feared the outbreak of a new world war, especially in light of the development of nuclear weapons. "Now war can find any nation, wherever it may dwell between dusk and dawn," he warned. Churchill knew all too well the devastation conventional bombs had wreaked on Britain during The Blitz—a similar campaign waged with nuclear weapons would be too horrible to imagine.
Reactions to the "Sinews of Peace" were mixed; some were suspicious of Churchill's proposed alliance between the United States and Britain and accused Churchill of warmongering. Others were provoked by Churchill's claim that "there never was a war in history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe." "It could have been prevented in my opinion without firing a shot ...," he continued, "but no one would listen and one by one we were all sucked into the awful whirlpool. ... "
Others lauded the speech for its prophetic qualities—particularly Churchill's anticipation of the formation of the Soviet Bloc—a view shared by many modern-day historians. Churchill predicted the Cold War, sounded its early warning, and defined the central problems that would occupy the leaders that followed him. As a result, the "Sinews of Peace" is widely regarded as Churchill's most famous peace-time address.[by whom?]President Harry Truman predicted that Churchill's address would put both Fulton and Westminster College on the map—he was right.
Today, visitors to the museum may view filmed selections of the speech. The lectern and chair that Churchill used are on display in the museum.
Churchill's Living Memorial: St. Mary, Aldermanbury
In 1961, Westminster College President Dr. Robert L. D. Davidson began formulating a plan to commemorate both Winston Churchill's life and the "Sinews of Peace." A LIFE magazine feature on war-ravaged, soon-to-be-demolished Christopher Wren churches in London prompted the suggestion to import one of the churches to serve as both a memorial and the College chapel. After further investigation, college officials selected St. Mary, Aldermanbury as the church to be saved.
St. Mary, Aldermanbury was not only an ideal choice because of its relatively small size, but also because of its unique and nearly 1,000 year history. St. Mary's was a focal-point of religious life in the Old City of London, serving as a place of worship for literary greats William Shakespeare and John Milton. Founded in the late 12th century, the church shared in the rich history of London, surviving both the English Reformation, Restoration, and numerous civil wars. However, on September 2, 1666, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, which swept through St. Mary's parish, burning for five days. When the fire was finally subdued, almost the entire City of London north of the River Thames—including St. Mary, Aldermanbury—lay in ruins.
With so much of London in ruins, reconstruction of the many churches destroyed in the fire was of secondary importance—many would never be rebuilt. However, St. Mary, Aldermanbury became the ninth church restored, placing it among the earliest. With approval for rebuilding granted in 1670, famed architect Christopher Wren began renovating the church in 1672 with the removal of 1,068 cubic yards (817 m3) of rubble. Wren rebuilt the church on part of the old foundation with as much original stones as could be salvaged—saving both time and money. By 1677, the work was essentially complete; the cupola was added to the tower in 1679.
St. Mary, Aldermanbury's location near the heart of London again proved dangerous during World War II at the height of the Blitz. On Sunday evening, December 29, 1940, the German Luftwaffe mounted a massive air raid, dropping 20,000 incendiary bombs on London. Luftwaffe command planned the raid to coincide with low tide to impede fire fighting. It worked. The shortage of water and the scale of the attack forced firemen to let parts of the city burn. At 6:45 pm, St. Mary's suffered a direct hit by an incendiary bomb, quickly setting the church ablaze. Noel Mander, a young fire warden, later recorded his observations:
"We couldn't do anything because the water mains had all been fractured, and the river was so low, record low, they couldn't suck water up from there. They could do little, very little. ... I saw that night St. Mary, Aldermanbury; St. Vedast-alias-Foster, my own church—I saw them all burn, and it was a sensation that I will never forget—hearing the bells fall down the tower, hearing the organs burn, because the hot air blowing through the organ pipes almost sounded as if the poor old organs were shrieking in agony in their destruction."
That night, thirteen Christopher Wren churches shared St. Mary's fate. By morning, only its blackened shell and tower stood—the roof, the interior, and all furnishings destroyed. In the war's aftermath, there were neither the funds nor the need to rebuild all of London's destroyed churches. After standing as a ruin for twenty years, St. Mary, Aldermanbury joined the list of parish churches slated for demolition.
It was at this point that Westminster College stepped in to save the church from destruction and to reconstruct it in order to honor one of Britain's most famous citizens—Winston Churchill. Churchill's inspiration for the British people during the Blitz made the reconstruction of St. Mary, Aldermanbury, itself a victim of the Blitz, a fitting memorial to the man. "I am honored ...," Churchill said. ... ." "The removal of a ruined Christopher Wren Church, largely destroyed by enemy action in London in 1941 [sic], and its reconstruction and re-dedication at Fulton, is an imaginative concept. ... " "It may symbolize in the eyes of the English-speaking peoples," he continued, "the ideals of Anglo-American association on which rest, now as before, so many of our hopes for peace and the future of mankind."
It took four years to finalize preparations for the project, and to raise the necessary $2 million (more than $10 million today) to make the move a reality. Actor Richard Burton was a major promoter and donor, appearing on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar on NBC, who made a direct appeal. In 1965, the removal process began. Workers carefully labeled each of the 7,000 stones, noting their location in the church. More than 700 tons of blocks were shipped to Fulton via boat and rail. In the moving process, the carefully ordered stones became scrambled. Builders in Fulton faced a jigsaw puzzle that spread over an acre.
With several of the church's stones piled beside him, President Truman arrived in Fulton to turn the symbolic first shovel for the reconstruction on April 19, 1964, before a crowd of 10,000 on-lookers. Fittingly, former Westminster President Franc McCluer and the other living members of the 1946 platform party joined in the ceremonies.
The foundation stone was laid in October 1966, 300 years after the Great Fire of London, and by May 1967, the last stone was in place. However, the project was far from complete. A meticulous re-creation of the church's interior required another two years of work. English woodcarvers, working from pre-war photographs, created carvings for the pulpit, baptismal font, and balcony. Blenko Glass Company, an American firm, manufactured the glass for the windows and a Dutch firm cast five new bronze bells for the tower. Noel Mander, the fire warden who watched St. Mary's burn in 1940, built the organ and helped assure authenticity of the interior details. There are only two departures from the Wren design: an organ gallery in the west wall and a window in the tower to illuminate the stairway.
After nearly five years of work on what The Times called "perhaps the biggest jigsaw puzzle in the history of architecture," dedication ceremonies for St. Mary's and The Winston Churchill Memorial and Library in the United States (now America’s National Churchill Museum) were held on May 7, 1969. During the course of the ceremonies, the Rev. Anthony Tremlett, the Bishop of Dover, England, re-hallowed St. Mary's as a place of worship. In 1992, the Eagle Squadrons Association named St. Mary's as its official chapel. Since that time, St. Mary, Aldermanbury has continued to serve as a focus of religious life and history.
The museum was declared “America’s National Churchill Museum” by the United States Congress in 2009.
Winston S. Churchill: A Life of Leadership gallery
Renovated in 2006, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the "Sinews of Peace," the Churchill museum strives to bring Churchill to life for new generations born years after Churchill's death. The objective of the museum is to tell the story of Churchill's life, giving due proportion both to his successes and his failures, and to let visitors make their own determinations about the man and his place in history.
This narrative is presented in the form of a "walkthrough" experience, organized chronologically. The exhibition begins with Churchill's birth and proceeds through the major events of his life, alongside an examination of the critical events of the 20th century. The exhibit relates the story of Churchill's entire life—not only his experiences in World War II—examining his pursuits as a politician, soldier, journalist, family man, and painter.
Some of the highlights of this exhibition include the "Admiralty, Army & Arsenal: 1914–1919" room. This portion of the exhibit is housed within a recreation of a World War I trench—complete with barbed wire, sandbags, and spent ammunition—that gives visitors a sense of a British soldier's experience on the Western Front. A periscope mounted on the trench wall gives visitors a glimpse of a real World War I battlescape from period footage. An accompanying ambient audio track plays the sound of soldiers' conversations interspersed with distant gunfire and shell bursts. The World War I room also examines Churchill's role in the disasters of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli and his contributions to the technology of warfare.
Another highlight of the exhibition is "The Gathering Storm: 1929–1939" room which discusses Churchill's suspicion of Hitler and the Nazi movement. In this room, five video monitors play excerpts from Nazi propaganda films interspersed with images of the impending war, demonstrating how Nazi rhetoric differed from policy. Against this backdrop, the exhibit examines Churchill's view of the Nazis and his disgust for Britain's pre-war appeasement politics.
Yet another room, "Churchill's Finest Hour: World War II, 1939–1945", portrays World War II and Churchill's pivotal role in that conflict. Here, a sound and light show replicates an air-raid on London during the "Blitz". Simulated rubble surrounds the room and the room reverberates with the sounds of bombs detonating and air raid sirens sounding. Flashes of anti-aircraft fire and the prodding beams of searchlights illuminate the exhibit. Segments of war-time broadcasts add to the atmosphere. After the conclusion of the Blitz demonstration, a short film, narrated by Walter Cronkite, examines Churchill's role as prime minister during the war. Around the walls of his room, more interactive displays describe the war-time skills of code breaking and plane spotting.
Other museum highlights include "The Sinews of Peace" room and the "Winston's Wit & Wisdom" room. "The Sinews of Peace" tells the story of how and why Churchill came to visit Westminster College. Featured in this exhibit are the lectern and chair used by Churchill during his speech and the ceremonial robes he wore. In "Winston's Wit & Wisdom" visitors sit in a simulated British club while listening to an audio presentation of Churchill stories. Visitors to this room may also search through a database of Churchill's most famous quotations and quips on a host of topics.
Breakthrough: America’s National Churchill Museum Comes Full-Circle
On November 9, 1990, Edwina Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill, introduced her sculpture Breakthrough to the public at America’s National Churchill Museum. Made from eight sections of the Berlin Wall, Breakthrough not only serves to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall, but also to memorialize Churchill's "Sinews of Peace." "I had always wanted to make a sculpture for the Churchill Memorial at Westminster," Sandys said, "and this seemed the perfect moment to do something. Friends in Berlin had come back with tiny little pieces of wall, and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to make a sculpture.' I thought I'd better go straight [to Berlin] while there was some wall left."
In 1990, with the support of Westminster College, Sandys and her husband, Richard Kaplan, had traveled to East Berlin to secure portions of the wall. Upon their arrival in Berlin, however, the couple realized the sculpture would be costly, as 4-foot (1.2 m)-wide sections were selling for $60,000 to $200,000. Fortunately, East German officials, intrigued by the idea of an erecting a Berlin Wall monument at the location of Churchill's 1946 speech, allowed Sandys to choose eight sections of the wall as a gift to Westminster College.
Sandys chose the sections from an area near the Brandenburg Gate, frequented by artists, because of the dramatic color of the graffiti. The repeated use of the word "unwahr" ("lies" or "untruths") within the sections also appealed to her. Sandys modified the original sections by cutting out large male and female silhouettes from the wall—these cuts outs exemplified the newly-opened communication between East and West. When assembled, Breakthrough proved to be an enormous sculpture, roughly 11 ft (3.4 m) high by 32 ft (9.8 m) ft long. The silhouette cut-outs are part of a second sculpture entitled Breakfree, located at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York.
One year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Sandys unveiled Breakthrough before a crowd of 7,000 people gathered on the campus of Westminster College. Among the gathered crowd were former President Ronald Reagan, Senator John Ashcroft, and German Minister Plenipotentiary Fritjof von Nordenskjoeld. The dedication of Breakthrough brought the Churchill Museum full-circle. Forty-four years after her grandfather had warned of the creation of the "iron curtain," Edwina Sandys' sculpture commemorated the close of the Cold War.
Following in Churchill's Footsteps: The Green Foundation & Kemper Lecture Series
Winston Churchill is just one of many world leaders to have visited Westminster College. Since 1937, the College has played host to The John Findley Green Lectures and The Crosby Kemper Lectures. Both lectures have brought world-famous politicians, business leaders, and academics to Westminster College, among whom Churchill was arguably the most famous and most memorable.
The Green Foundation Lectures The John Findley Green Foundation Lectures were established in 1936 as a memorial to John Findley Green, an attorney in St. Louis who graduated from Westminster in 1884. The foundation provides for lectures designed to promote understanding of economic and social problems of international concern. It further provides that "the speaker shall be a person of international reputation."
The Kemper Lectures
The Crosby Kemper Lecture Series was established in 1979 by a grant from the Crosby Kemper Foundation of Kansas City, Missouri. This foundation provides for lectures by authorities on British History and Sir Winston Churchill at America’s National Churchill Museum.
Other world leaders who have followed in Churchill's footsteps and journeyed to Westminster College include: US Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush; British Prime Ministers Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and Sir John Major; Polish President Lech Wałęsa; and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
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- "Breakthrough:" A Monumental Sculpture of the Berlin Wall (Westminster College, 1990), 3.
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