Google Revisits the Fall of the Iron Curtain in New Online Exhibition

I like to col­lect sounds while trav­el­ing. A few favorites that come to mind include the whine of scoot­ers buzzing down the streets of Paris, the calm female voice announc­ing the next stop on the Prague Metro and the clink clink of peo­ple chip­ping away chunks of the Berlin Wall.

That was 1990, just a few months after mil­lions of Germans—from both sides of the wall—succeeded in end­ing the East Ger­man regime through street protests.

The Google Cul­tur­al Insti­tute cap­tures this amaz­ing peri­od of recent his­to­ry with The Fall of the Iron Cur­tain, a new col­lec­tion of his­tor­i­cal doc­u­mentsvideos and pho­tos curat­ed by Niall Fer­gu­son, an emi­nent Har­vard his­to­ri­an.

The 1980s saw the Cold War come to an end with a wave of cit­i­zen protests that swept across Europe. Google’s col­lec­tion includes 13 exhibits that begin with Poland’s Sol­i­dar­i­ty Move­ment but then con­sid­ers the his­to­ry and sig­nif­i­cance of the Berlin Wall.

Google part­nered with major Ger­man and Pol­ish muse­ums to cre­ate the exhibits so the expe­ri­ence is rich with con­text, includ­ing inter­views with his­to­ri­ans and images from the pop­u­lar cul­ture of the time.

Fol­low the riv­et­ing events of Decem­ber 14, 1989 as Roman­ian cit­i­zens crowd­ed Maria Plaza in Timisoara call­ing for lead­ers Nico­lae and Ele­na Ceauces­cu to step down. By evening the crowd filled all of the roads off the plaza and the mil­i­tary opened fire, killing 62 peo­ple. The peri­od of the Ceauces­cu tri­al and exe­cu­tion is brought to life in anoth­er exhib­it with images and inter­views.

The exhibits con­clude with the rapid accel­er­a­tion of events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall itself.

Each exhib­it is rich and com­plete with anec­dotes, includ­ing a diary of life dur­ing Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion.

Speak­ing of col­lect­ing sounds while trav­el­ing, check out the Pink Floyd’s live per­for­mance we brought you of The Wall in east­ern Berlin, a mere eight months after the Wall had come down.

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. You can con­tact her and find more of her work at and

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  • Margaret Rose STRINGER says:

    Is it me …? — am I the only per­son on-line who is find­ing it dif­fi­cult to man­age the Google Cul­tur­al Insti­tute site?
    Hav­ing just spent rough­ly half an hour try­ing my best to work my way through a few projects — Ver­sailles, e.g., as well as the fall of the Iron Cur­tain, above — I’ve giv­en up.
    I must imag­ine that famil­iar­i­ty with fin­ger-oper­at­ed tablets would ren­der it all so easy. Alas for we desk­top afi­ciona­dos, then …

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