One of my most favorite activities is a long leisurely visit to a museum. A visit to a good museum will not only enrich and educate, but engage you. I have such fond memories of several, in both Germany and in Missouri. There is nothing better than exhibits that pull you in and engage you, helping you to experience the emotions and feelings and relate to the subject. Usually, a good bookstore or archives is included, where I could also spend days, and a small fortune that I don’t have, as well. These days though, research and messages move at the speed of the internet, so I have come to wonder, why not an online museum and archives as well?
In September of 2010, I had the good fortune to visit the Deutsches Auswanderhaus in Bremerhaven with my friend, author Rolf Schmidt. It was a memorable experience. The award-winning German Emigration Center could actually be compared, for those here in the U.S. to our Staten Island. It allows visitors to follow the more than 7 million people who emigrated through the port of Bremerhaven.
As you enter, you immediately experience a room just as emigrants beginning in 1829 would have, when looking to leave Europe for the New World. Especially great were the rooms where you experience the departure and conditions you experienced in the crossing. As those conditions changed from sailing ships to modern day Ocean liners, so did your experience. For those looking to search for foregone friends, you will enjoy the rooms filled with file drawers and international databanks of personal objects of those who passed through this port. The bookstore is filled with treasures in all languages and the Children’s Museum adds an additional enrichment for those with family and small children. I highly urge anyone visiting Germany to include this museum.
In Washington, Missouri the Washington Historical Society allows the visitor, whether from the U.S. or Germany, to truly experience a portion of Missouri’s German history. Filled with exhibits covering everything from the Native Americans that roamed the area before the Europeans arrival to the local Washington Turnverein, one is able to understand the evolution of a City rich in German emigrant’s cultural history. When visiting with Director Marc Houseman, he is likely to pull out a picture from the thousands in their photo archives, available to all visitors. If you want to dig a little deeper, they have a great archives. For those doing research on their families, the Four Rivers Genealogy Society maintains a fantastic library – the Ralph Gregory Library – with the Kiel Files. If visiting Missouri, the Washington Historical Society Museum should be included if interested in Missouri’s German history.