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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Churchill: The Power of Words on Exhibit at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City


For history buffs, Anglophiles, and all appreciators of resonant, meaty language, Churchill: The Power of Words, now on exhibition at the lovely, under-visited-by-us Pierpont Morgan Library (which, by the way, features some of the most beautiful New York City Architecture), is pretty much a must-see. Because even if Winston Churchill wasn't an extremely influential figure in the story of our planet in the 20th-century–which, of course, he was–Churchill's peerless understanding of how words, when chosen carefully and assembled together in a certain sequence, can be even more persuasive, more potent, more lasting than any spectacle, or action, remains nothing short of astonishing. Through a combination of fascinating original documents written and/or edited in Sir Winston Churchill's hand, and a terrific multi-media mini-theater, the Morgan Library's Churchill: The Power of Words does an excellent job of bringing that awful, thrilling, monumental era of the 1930s and 1940s to life. 


 

Sir Winston Churchill Exhibition at the Morgan Library NYC


Churchill: The Power of Words at the Morgan Library and Museum offers visitors a small but remarkable selection of Churchillian memorabilia, as it were, including hand-written letters (our favorites were his Victorian-era childhood missives to his parents from boarding school, above), drafts of many of Sir Winston Churchill's most famous public speeches, as well as official correspondence (but with a personal touch, naturally) to and from the world leaders of the day, including his country's King, General and President Eisenhower, and, of course, his cherished friend and comrade in arms, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But it's not all weight and war here. We loved seeing Churchill's actual Nobel Prize medal, and a doctor's note, which he received after being hit by a car in Prohibition-era New York City, written by a certain Otto C. Pickhardt, M.D., saying that Winston Churchill's "post-accident convalescence" required "the use of alcoholic spirits especially at meal times…. The quantity," Dr. Pickhardt allowed, "is naturally indefinite." 

 

Winston Churchill Speeches on Display at the Pierpont Morgan Library


But the centerpiece of the Morgan Library's Churchill exhibition has to be the multi-media presentation of excerpts from several of his most stirring addresses. The "theater" has three screens. As the Churchill speech plays–and there's no escaping the power of that voice–the middle screen typographically lays out the words as they're spoken, while historic photos of war and peace slideshow by on its flanks. It's a simple, extremely effective display, one that instantly recalls a time when the words spoken by our leaders really mattered. As Edward R. Murrow said: "He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle." And just a note about the Pierpont Morgan Library itself: this place–and by "this place" we mean the sun-drenched, high-ceilinged addition–is simply lovely, an exceptionally pleasant spot to sit and enjoy some treats from the cafe. If you've never been, Churchill: The Power of Words makes for a great excuse to check out the Morgan Library New York. 

 

Churchill: The Power of Words, at the Morgan Library and Museum Details


The Morgan Library's Sir Winston Churchill exhibition will be on view through September 28. The Pierpont Morgan Library is located on Madison Avenue between 36th and 35th Streets and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on Friday until 9:00 p.m., on Saturday from 10 to 6, and on Sunday from 11 until 6. For more information about Churchill: The Power of Words and the Morgan Library New York, please see the library's website, here.


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