Several important steps have been completed in the establishment of the National Churchill Library and Center at the George Washington University. Concept renderings of the space, created by architecture firm Cox Graae & Spack, have been produced, and fundraising and planning activities are well underway.
The library and center will provide a permanent American home for studies of 20th-century leader Sir Winston Churchill. The Churchill Centre, a Chicago-based international educational organization devoted to preserving the legacy of Winston Churchill, agreed to establish the National Churchill Library and Center at the George Washington University through an $8 million pledge to the university in January.
Renderings and a floor plan designed by Cox Graae & Spack show the new center with its own ground-floor entrance on H Street where the current Gelman Library main entrance is located. The Gelman main entrance will be relocated to Kogan Plaza.
The agreement between the two institutions includes two endowed academic positions for the study of Churchill and British history, and partial renovations of the ground floor of Gelman Library to house rare books and other research materials. Construction on the center is scheduled to start after the new entrance floor opens.
Inside, the Churchill Library and Center will include a reading room, an exhibit gallery and special event space to host lectures, symposia and receptions. The reading room will include computer terminals to provide access to the entire Churchill Archives Centre collection, which includes more than 1 million documents. The exhibit gallery will hold both permanent and loaned materials, portions of which may come from institutions including the Churchill Archives Centre, the Churchill Museum and Chartwell, Churchill’s home in Westerham, England—all of which seldom lend material outside of Great Britain.
At an April 30 gala dinner to raise funds for the new center, George Washington President Steven Knapp told guests that GW’s campus, located near the White House, Smithsonian museums, State Department and Eisenhower Executive Office Building—which, for most of the Churchill era, was the home of the U.S. Department of War—was the ideal site for the new library and center.
“The center will truly become a destination for visitors from around the world,” Dr. Knapp said. In addition to hosting a full-time endowed professor and an endowed curatorship, the new center will hold conferences and lectures related to Churchill scholarship, British-American relations and many related topics.
“[The center] will inspire new scholarship about Churchill’s life, leadership and place in world history, it will explore the relevance of lessons learned and the example for the challenges facing the world today, and it will provide a unique opportunity for George Washington students, Churchill scholars and the general public to study this extraordinary figure,” Dr. Knapp said.
The new center will also provide many opportunities for collaboration with sister institutions, including the Churchill Archive, the Churchill War Rooms Museum in London and the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mo.
“There are a lot of resources from around the world that we can bring together for a truly transatlantic partnership,” Dr. Knapp said.
Randolph Churchill, great-grandson of Winston Churchill, said the new center would expand access to the primary source materials that are the basis of new and exciting research.
“What’s really important about what we’re going to do with the George Washington University is to help educate the younger generations as to leadership and statesmanship,” he said. “To be able to give students, teachers and professors access to those primary sources will enable them to have a much greater depth of understanding as to the importance of building relationships and enduring alliances.”