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MARCH/APRIL 2012

Churchill: The Power of Words at Morgan Library
By Lisa K. Winkler

“A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in his “Defence of Freedom and Peace” speech, a radio broadcast October, 16, 1938 to the American public, calling for support in the early days of World War II.

Solider, statesman, Prime Minister, War leader, orator and writer. Churchill’s life and words are well documented in countless biographies, movies, and exhibits. His writings — ranging from letters to his parents to his speeches and books — are collected in vast archives, more than 3,000 boxes holding about one million pieces of his work.  Some of these archives will be the focus of the Morgan Library & Museum’s exhibit, “The Power of Words,” opening June 8 and running through September 23 in New York City.

To Allen Packwood, archivist at the Churchill Centre based at Cambridge University, the exhibit celebrates Churchill’s relationship with New York and will introduce the statesman, who died at 90 in 1965, to younger generations.

People will see what Packwood calls the “raw material of history.” Documents will transport viewers to the actual events, allowing visitors to see the correspondence Churchill had with other world leaders, including President Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and generals during the war.  Special listening pods will allow visitors to hear his speeches and read the words on the screen.

Why study Churchill? For Packwood, that’s easy. “He’s fun. He had an amazing life, charging with the British cavalry, writing for newspapers. His political career allowed him to engage in the most important episodes of the 20th century — two World Wars and the Cold War,” Packwood said. “To understand the world today, students need to understand how the world evolved.”

Additionally there’s the power of Churchill’s words. Showing how words can engage and mobilize others to act empowers others, said Packwood, who is organizing the New York exhibit. Always passionate about history, having visited castles and battlefields as a young child, Packwood majored in history at Nottingham University and then became interested in medieval history, which led him to archives.

The exhibit will include artifacts from Churchill’s home, including the honorary passport granted him by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Resources for educators and school tours are being planned in addition to a lecture series funded by philanthropist Tina Santi Flaherty. #

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