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23, January 2015

Experience German Heritage at the Museum's Cultural Fest

With a rich heritage, Germans have long been a part of St. Louis history. In 1824, a German man named Gottfried Duden spent three years living in Missouri, and when he returned home and published his book Report on a Journey to the Western States, he was called the dream spinner. But soon, early German immigrants, like Friedrich Steines, were writing letters home to their relatives urging them to come to America too. Read more »

15, January 2015

Tour Utopia with a Curator on Tuesdays

The history of Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America actually goes back to 2009, when I received an email from filmmaker Peter Roloff asking me if "there anything left that is German in Missouri." Writing from Berlin, Roloff was looking for traces of the Giessen Emigration Society, whose members had arrived in Missouri in 1834. He had contacted me as I was working on a biography of Friedrich Muench, the group's founder. Read more »

12, January 2015

Reflections on the Immigrant Experience

As I walk into the Missouri Immigrant Experience installation I am greeted by countless faces. They look at me from pictures posted all over the walls, some grainy and black and white and others in modern color. Within each image, I find a unique story. I watch as a group of fresh-faced European immigrants arrive on a platform in Union Station in the late 1840s. I observe a group of German women performing a dance in Carondelet Park in the 1900s. I even glimpse a Russian immigrant giving blood for a Social Security test in 1990. Read more »

19, December 2014

A Day for Descendants

On December 13 at the Missouri History Museum, I enjoyed the greatest pleasure in meeting more than 50 people who shared the fact that their ancestors had been members of the original Giessen Emigration Society. There were descendants from the Arens, Berg, Hillenkamp, Kunze, Molitor, Muench, Schieffer, Schone, Freymuth, Wehrheim, Weinrich, and Mades families, a special day of programming planned around the Museum's Utopia: Revisiting a German State in America exhibit. Read more »

26, November 2014

Beneath the Feet of 1875 St. Louis

Often while taking strolls through Carondelet Park, just a few blocks from my house, I marvel at the park’s strange topography. Most of St. Louis seems relatively flat, but crossing into the park’s natural settings, the land suddenly undulates wildly. Rolling hills drop into large depressions in the land. When snow-covered, these holes can look like an alien planet, and after a heavy rain new ponds show up across the park. Read more »

14, November 2014

Having a Ball While Celebrating German Heritage

As we are gearing up for the upcoming exhibit, Utopia: Revisiting a German State in America, members of the Traveling Summer Republic are hosting an exhibition of Boßeln (Bosseln), a ball game popular in the northwestern region of Germany (East Frisia). This exhibition game will be played at 11 am on November 15 at the Jahn Memorial in Forest Park. Read more »

5, November 2014

Utopia Interactive Offers Unique Opportunity to Experience Immigration

One of the things that makes the Museum’s upcoming exhibit Utopia: Revisiting a German State in America special is a “travel agency” situated within the exhibition. Part performance and part interactive station, the travel agency deals with the issue of "goodbye" and "welcome," according to Esther Steinbrecher, who came up with the idea. Read more »

27, October 2014

Keeping 1875 St. Louis in Order

When I was asked to take the lead on the upcoming exhibit A Walk in 1875 St. Louis, I immediately was thrilled at the idea of basing an exhibit around one of my favorite maps, Compton & Dry’s “Pictorial St. Louis.” “Pictorial St. Louis” was published as a book, with 110 separate map plates that could be pieced together into a single grand view. Read more »

24, October 2014

Utopia Exhibit Attracts Muench Descendants Nationwide

“Great event!” “Amazing!” “A life-changing experience.” These were some of the comments heard on September 6 and 7, 2014, during the opening weekend of the Utopia exhibition at the German–American Heritage Museum in Washington DC. “It's larger than the museum itself!” exclaimed museum curator Petra Shuermann when the Utopia delivery truck first pulled up in front of the museum. The museum is housed in the former townhouse of German immigrant-merchant John Hockemeyer. Read more »

22, October 2014

The Louisiana Purchase and the Changes It Wrought

When I was a kid learning about the Louisiana Purchase in school, I learned the basic framework of the story—in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France, nearly doubling the size of the United States. And, from what I learned, the Louisiana Purchase was undoubtedly a good thing: It gave the United States access to the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, granted the United States control of the Missouri, and gave Americans millions of acres of land to settle. Read more »