Center for Study of Winston Churchill Comes to GW

January 18, 2012

The first permanent American home for studies of 20th-century leader Sir Winston Churchill will be located in George Washington University’s Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library.

The Churchill Centre, a Chicago-based international educational organization devoted to preserving the legacy of Winston Churchill, has agreed to establish the National Churchill Library and Center at the George Washington University through an $8 million pledge to the university.

The agreement between the two institutions includes rare books and other research materials for the new center, endowed academic positions for the study of Churchill and British history and renovations to the ground floor of Gelman Library. The center will open in several stages between 2013 and 2015.

“Undertaking this project with the George Washington University represents a milestone in the development of the Churchill Centre and of Churchill scholarship in America,” said Churchill Centre Chairman Laurence S. Geller. “The unique place that Winston Churchill holds in modern history as an icon of leadership and the respect his memory is accorded throughout the United States have long demanded the creation of a permanent home for Churchill studies, exhibitions and programs in our nation’s capital.”

The partnership includes a dedicated street-level space for the National Churchill Library and Center; a $2.5 million endowed professorship in Churchill and 20th-century British history in GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences; a $2.5 million endowed curatorship of the National Churchill Library and Center; and a $1 million program and collection endowment to fund a wide range of lectures, seminars, programs and exhibits for scholars, students and visitors.

An additional $2 million will be provided for renovations to the ground floor of Gelman Library to create the Churchill Library and Center, which will house an extensive collection of books and other research materials by and about Churchill and his times, as well as related exhibition space.

“We are delighted to bring such a prestigious collection of materials on Sir Winston Churchill to our campus," said George Washington President Steven Knapp. “Scholars, students and the general public will now have an unprecedented opportunity to study this world-historical figure in the heart of this nation's capital.”

The library and center will educate new generations about Churchill by working closely with other schools and programs at GW, including the Elliott School of International Affairs, the School of Media and Public Affairs, the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Affairs and the Law School.

Talks to bring the center to GW began with former university President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. The project will be developed with the collaboration and support of major Churchill institutions in the United Kingdom, including the Churchill War Rooms and Museum, Chartwell (Churchill’s family home, operated by the National Trust) and the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, the University of Cambridge, as well as members of the Churchill family.

The GW center will serve as a repository for Churchill resource materials, such as books, pamphlets, speeches and photographs donated by members of the Churchill Centre and others.

In addition to the Churchill Library and Center, GW will also open a new George Washington University Museum in coming years, which will house the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection, an unparalleled compilation of rare documents, maps and other materials related to Washington, D.C.’s history. Mr. Small donated the collection to the university in February 2011.

The Textile Museum, currently located on S Street, NW, will also become part of the George Washington University Museum. Its collection, as well as the Washingtoniana Collection, will both be housed in a new custom-built 35,000-square-foot building at G and 21st streets on the Foggy Bottom Campus. In addition, a conservation and resource center dedicated to the study and care of the Textile Museum’s collection will be constructed on the GW Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Loudoun County, Va.

Learning & Research