In this months newsletter you will find opportunities for a Missouri Summer Bus Tour through Dutzow and Hermann on July 12, a tour back to Germany to visit Giessen and Bremen from September 23-October 1, or for those of you who missed it, a tour filmed of the Utopia exhibit at the Missouri History Museum on April 19, 2015.
Six years ago, in the summer of 2009, I received an email that asked a simple but surprising question: “Is there anything left of the German [Heritage] in Missouri, that emigrated there in the 1830s?” [ See our previous post German Heritage Corridor ] So surprising in fact, I briefly wondered if it was spam. Then thought it too strange even for spam!
I had been working on a biography of Friedrich Muench for many years. Stopping to raise a family, life had got in the way a few times, but I was growing more determined. In Berlin Germany, Henry Schneider had come across the Giessen Emigration Society, and had asked his friend Peter Roloff if he was familiar with their story. A focus group in Bremen Germany was begun, as each summer, Germans from all over Germany – like the Society – converged on the Bremerhaven – like the Society – to talk about the United States. They – The Traveling Summer Republic wondered “what had become of the Germans that had emigrated to the U.S.?”
Their first trip in the October of 2009 was spent exploring and
visiting all the sites associated with the lives of the members of the Giessen Society. We crammed in sites from the St. Louis Mississippi riverfront all the way to Hermann. Plus the newspapers and radio stations wanted interviews – with the Germans that had come to Missouri. Roloff is a film maker and producer with maxim Films from Berlin, and was filming the entire trip for the Germans back home. Plus it rained! Nearly 11 inches of rain fell in that short four day first visit. Do you know how hard it is to film in the rain?
In September of 2010 my youngest daughter and I were invited to Germany to meet the Traveling Summer Republic and see the premiere of A Trip to a Forgotten Utopia. I was amazed at the number of Germans that found the subject of 19th Century emigrants to Missouri fascinating, And that is when the friendship became International, as we invited them back to Missouri.
In the fall of 2011, we did a Bus Tour – replicating the trip of the
Giessen Society with two busses. The interest was growing. And so were the discussions. We had plans to take all of our research, on both sides of the pond, and turn it into a book. When we went looking for funding, Germany thought this a worthy project and it grew into a traveling exhibition.
Soon we were not only writing a book, [see Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America available at Amazon.com the book. ] but creating text and designing an exhibit. An exhibit that is filled with videos of the several visits we each made both in the U.S. and in Germany. Ultimately, with editing, the hours and hours of film would be used in the documentary that would accompany the exhibit [see Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America available at Amazon.com – the film.] that would have its premiere with record attendance at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
The exhibit opened in Giessen Germany on November 1, 2013 by the city’s Mayor. Several thousand enjoyed the exhibit there before the end of the year. In the spring of 2014, it traveled to Bremen, just as the Society did. I wondered if the exhibit was larger than the Society, with its container, filled with 30 crates, videos, books, its own archives, maps, photographs, and murals. After its’ visit to Bremen, Utopia became an international project. When it arrived in Washington, DC even the Washington Post carried the story of its visit to the German American Heritage Museum.
But its’ visit to Missouri was very underestimated. Missouri is a German state. Not in the manner or the “form” that the Society first intended, but in its “function”. The German-American experience in Missouri is a melding, a blending of the best of both cultures. Beautiful architecture, wonderful wine, and a strong determined spirit. Friedrich Muench referred to Missouri as “where the sun of Freedom shines”. Over 60,000 visitors shared in the experience of Utopia at the beautiful Missouri History Museum in St. Louis before it left. During that time, a Curator’s Tour was given every Tuesday morning at 10;30 and by special request for schools and groups. Here is a link to that tour for those that missed it. A Utopia Tour with Dorris Keeven-Franke is a brief 40 minute visit of the exhibit.
This summer Utopia is being welcomed home in both Giessen and Bremen Germany, and the items sent by Americans as a satellite of friendship, at the Muss i denn desk, to Germany are being adopted there. And it will visit Berlin! For all of our followers outside of Missouri, in Germany and elsewhere – click here.
If you are in Missouri, you can still enjoy a bit of Utopia – with a Summer Bus Tour though Utopia on July 12, 2015 thanks to St. Louis – Stuttgart Sister City International and the German American Heritage Society of St. Louis. Or you can join us as we once again visit Germany and take a trip back to the Dawn of Utopia from September 23 through October 1.
Missouri is a state rich with German Heritage! From the Maifests to the Oktoberfests, from St. Louis to Concordia, and the wineries that fill the Missouri River valley, we still enjoy many customs and traditions and proudly state “my ancestors came from Germany!” Follow our blog or subscribe to our e-Journal Der Anzeiger and continue to enjoy your German heritage too.