The National Churchill Library and Center
Opens at The George Washington University
The Thirty-third International Churchill Conference culminated with the opening ceremony for the National Churchill Library and Center (NCLC) on the campus of The George Washington University in the heart of Washington, D. C. Chairman Laurence Geller of the International Churchill Society joined university president Steven Knapp, National Churchill Museum Chairman Jean-Paul Montupet, and Randolph Churchill for the official ribbon cutting.
“This has been a long journey,” Geller observed in his remarks. “I conceived the idea in the depths of the global recession of 2008. But with the strong support of Sir Winston’s daughter Mary Soames and his namesake grandson Winston Churchill, the initiative was taken. I wish they could have lived to be here with us today as we also mourn the loss of the dean of Churchill scholars Sir Martin Gilbert, who called this project our ‘life blood.’ We could not have achieved our goal without the firm commitment of two presidents of this great university, Stephen Trachtenberg and Steven Knapp. I want to thank all of them and many more who made this day possible.”
“Today we formally conjoin the names of two astonishing leaders as we celebrate the opening of the National Churchill Library and Center at the George Washington University,” George Washington President Steven Knapp said during the ceremony. “This library and center will be a crucial resource not only for our students and faculty, but also for scholars and interested citizens around the world.”
“The opening of Churchill’s permanent home in your nation’s capital is truly a thrilling moment,” said Randolph Churchill, great-grandson of Sir Winston Churchill and now President of the International Churchill Society. “I am more confident than ever that Churchill’s legacy will now be secure in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
The bright, welcoming space on the first floor of the university’s Estelle and Marvin Gelman Library will host a variety of programming on leadership through the lens of Winston Churchill. One wall is dominated by three large interactive touchscreens, where visitors can explore Churchill’s youth, his experience in war and conflict, and his political career. There is also a growing collections of books both by and about Sir Winston.
The center’s primary focus, however, will be on engaging the world in scholarly discussions about Winston Churchill’s core values and how they apply to the global issues of today—many of which have parallels to the challenges Churchill faced as a leader in the first half of the twentieth century.
“[Churchill] embodied the values of leadership, global citizenry, collaboration and perhaps most importantly curiosity and a willingness to take risks,” said Geneva Henry, dean of libraries and academic innovation. “These are the values that must guide us in the world today as we confront daunting challenges in our quest for world peace.”
Staff members have their own favorite parts of the collection. For historian Michael F. Bishop, inaugural director of the NCLC and new executive director of the International Churchill Society, the thirty cards from Churchill’s wartime engagement diary are some of the most fascinating. Even the handwriting, he said, gives a sense of the man behind the symbol.
“It’s an absolutely remarkable contemporary record of the prime minister’s meetings and movements during World War II,” Bishop said. “To have primary source material is exceptionally compelling. It really takes you back to what was going on when Churchill had the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
The center is open for student study at all times that Gelman is open. It will be open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment with the director.