Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America: The Exhibit

UTOPIA – Revisiting a German State in America deals with being on the road and indeed actually travels, as well – in many boxes within a cargo container. The Traveling Summer Republic transforms the emigrants’ search into concrete experiences, and the team’s every arrival and farewell becomes a public event. Container3

The exhibits are unpacked, the travel trunks become the architecture, the doors to the past are opened: Come stay a while and explore! The story of the Giessen Emigration Society is a thought provoking conversation relative to today immigration conversation. Childhood dreams, rebellions, and lifelongcropped-manuscript.jpg friendships await you in photos, sounds, and writings. Freedom, equality, and brotherhood, religion and assassinations are all to be found and discovered. Crossing the Atlantic, wine-growing, and slavery are examined as well. Old documents from the Utopians and recent interviews with the descendants are shared. At the end of every visit the trunks become still, the papers are rolled up, the books are closed. Everything is packed up and stowed away. And onwards!

Packing up and heading for Bremen
Packing up and heading on

The Traveling Summer Republic is a free association of artists and scholars from all over Germany and in the United States, has been researching this unique chapter of the German emigrant’s movement, and is interested in the connection of this story to today’s

Peter Roloff, left and Oliver Behnecke right
Peter Roloff, left and Oliver Behnecke right

societal, cultural and political issues. In 2005 the Sommer-Republik launched their project to establish Bremen as their European cultural capital with their “Island Conference” on the island of Harriersand on the Weser River, where a portion of the Giessen Emigration Society had to endure a horrific layover awaiting passage to the U.S.. Since then, there has been a broad variety of events and and they have established a large research archives.

Photo by Folker Winkelmann
Photo by Folker Winkelmann

In September 2009, four members of the Traveling Sommer-Republik visited Missouri and met with members of the Missouri Germans. They toured Missouri for four days, filming “A Trip to a Forgotten Utopia” which was released in Bremen, Germany in November 2010.TRIP-UTOPIA-08-04-09-2010  Following the release in Germany, came a showing in Missouri, and the International exchange, conversation and interest grew, resulting in the Utopia exhibition.

The innovative Exhibition Utopia! provides a thought provoking exhibit that encourages discussion of this story and provides a new narrative for future generations. Their founder’s ideal was considered a Utopia. The exhibit’s narrative will provide “branches” opening new avenues of thought, giving us courage to look beyond the original plan. Democratic societies need Utopias and the public discourse, in order to initiate changes for tomorrow, today. The Utopia exhibit will be an opportunity to open that discourse.

The exhibit Utopia has a narrative space at its center with the public Archive and Utopia Library.image Exhibits are surrounding this “knowledge core” within a second circle: video installations, audio stations, text panels, large photographs, historical objects unfold the story further. Events form the third circle, the outer space. Transport and expedition boxes are the universal design element and have multifunctional usage.

  • When it first opened in Giessen, Germany, on November 1st, 2013, it received a tremendous response.   Where once students involved in the German revolutions of the 1830s, struggled for change, the exhibit resonated with its City’s history. Then the story came alive in the beautiful port City of Bremen, Germany, the place of departure for thousands of Germans leaving for the U.S.. The exhibit opeed in the beautiful cultural hall St. Stephani, bringing the immigration story alive again with its fascinating programs.The Exhibition then traveled by ship to the U.S., just as the original emigrants did, where it was on display at the German-American Heritage Museum, sharing the story of the Giessen Society members’ search for true American freedoms!

    Currently, the exhibit commemorates the role of the German emigrants in St. Louis’ 250 years of history. At the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park [5700 Lindell] it will be open until April 19, 2015 when it will return to Germany.

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