Touching History

Marshall Wilson was one of the two Getty Interns who worked at The Wende Museum this past summer. He gives us a sneak-peak into some of The Museum’s recently acquired surveillance equipment and reflects on his time as an intern.

This summer, I  had the pleasure of working closely with The Wende Museum’s  latest shipment of military and surveillance technology.

The goal…to find out exactly how these blocky metallic machines worked and for what purposes they served.

With intensive research into areas previously unknown to me, and a little bit of intuition and common sense, I began to shed light on the items in our collection…

However, making headway in a field I had no formal education in came with its own set of headaches and hiccups.

My endeavors in researching our surveillance and military tech equipment could best be described as a treasure hunt. I felt like Indiana Jones, without the awesome hat or whip, but giddy nonetheless.

I cannot count the number of times I said in my head, “I’m touching history.” I would have jumped up and down with excitement, but that’s probably not a good idea on the stepladder; some of the objects I tried to maneuver weigh as much as 30 pounds—sometimes even more.

The Wende has allowed me to “touch history.” When I was looking for an internship, one consideration which was very important to me was the ability to expand upon my knowledge and actually put what I learned to use…something that’s a little hard to do with a background so immersed in the humanities and liberal arts.

What fascinates me so much about the Cold War are the personal stories which lie underneath the overarching discourse of the Cold War. What’s often forgotten amongst the traditional history of the Cold War are the personal narratives. These people and stories had as much an impact on the outcome of the Cold War as international policy had. To touch an object is to go back in time, and in that moment, history is lifted off the page—it comes to life.

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