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A General History of the Peace Museum Movement



A General History of the Peace Museum Movement




  Peace Museums are a relatively new idea.  War, on the other hand, has enjoyed glorification through monuments, literature, art, and war museums for centuries.  Against the backdrop of these relatively one-sided accounts, the idea arose of comprehensively recording the details of warfare—its depravity, the acute human costs associated with war, the totality of warfare that extends beyond the images of glory and valor—in the setting of a formally organized museum.  The motivation for such an endeavor was and still is the faith that “making people aware of the reality of war [is] tantamount to educating them for peace.


The dawn of the age of modern warfare at the turn of the 19th century provided the impetus for establishment of the first noted peace museum of our era.  In 1902, the International Museum of War and Peace was opened to the public in Lucerne, Switzerland.  It was another two decades before another peace museum took root.  In the wake of the devastating effects of World War I on European society, particularly in the German republic, Ernst Friedrich launched the First International Anti-War Museum in 1925.  It was later closed by the Nazi regime in 1933 as Friedrich fled persecution.


The second wave of peace museums sprung up after the destructive years of World War II.  Appropriately, the majority of these museums were established in Japan, where a keen understanding of the fatal consequences of nuclear warfare was realized.  The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were centers of staunch opposition to nuclear warfare that spread throughout the world.  Peace museums also were instituted in post-war Germany.


Today, peace museums can be found in every continent of the world.  Though war still lingers, there is hope to be found in the growth of the peace museum movement.  Efforts aimed at furthering the cause of peace are truly “an incremental enterprise.  The greater the presence of peace museums , the more palpable the message of peace for the general public to approach, appreciate, and assimilate as part of their own beliefs.