America's National Churchill Museum — dedicated to commemorating the life and times of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill — is preparing to open its doors once again.
The museum, located on the Westminster College campus in Fulton, has been closed the past 16 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will reopen to the public July 30 to begin a weekend celebration that will include remarks by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
Admission to the museum and related livestreamed activities will be free and open to the public throughout the weekend. The museum will continue to follow recommended COVID-19 procedures, including masking and social distancing.
The museum welcomes visitors from across the United States and around the globe. It is the only museum in North America that fully celebrates Churchill, who delivered his famous "Iron Curtain" speech at Westminster College on March 5, 1946.
Westminster President Donald P. Lofe Jr. noted the museum's reopening is integral for the college, local community and the school's global community.
"Winston Churchill's historic address had a significant, enduring impact on this campus," Lofe said in a news release. "Reopening America's National Churchill Museum after a long closure as a result of the global pandemic is cause for celebration, and the College warmly invites our campus, national, and worldwide communities to participate."
While the museum has been closed, the brass chandeliers hanging from the nearly 40-foot-high ceiling of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury — a centerpiece of the museum — have remained on night and day. It is a constant reminder that "we will persevere through this pandemic," Timothy Riley, chief curator of the museum, said in the news release.
Riley continued by quoting from one of the Churchill's World War II speeches: "If we persevere, and we will persevere, we shall come through these dark and dangerous valleys into a sunlight broader and more genial and more lasting than mankind has ever known."
While the museum has been closed to the public, its staff has remained busy with important projects. They include an inventory of the museum's extensive collection, digitizing historical documents and other artifacts, continuing ongoing preservation work on the historic church, enhancing its educational programs for elementary and high school students, and developing innovative webcasts.
The museum's most successful webcast was the virtual commemoration March 5 of the 75th anniversary of Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech, officially titled "The Sinews of Peace."
"We are excited to be opening the museum once again for all of our visitors," Riley said. "While we still adhere to various COVID-19 precautions, we want to invite all Missourians and visitors from across the country and internationally to join us for this special occasion."
The schedule of weekend festivities for the reopening can be found on the museum's website at nationalchurchillmuseum.org.