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New exhibit will unpack a distinct furniture building tradition

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Kauffman Museum’s newest permanent exhibit has been in the making for more than 15 years.

“Mennonite Immigrant Furniture” opens to the public on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 1:30 p.m. Based on the museum’s 1991 temporary exhibit of the same name, the new permanent collection contains pieces either brought by immigrant Mennonites in the 1870s or built by their first-generation descendents.

The collection is an official project of Save America’s Treasures, a partnership between the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic and National Preservation. Since its creation in 1998, Save America’s Treasures has identified historic places, artifacts and documents in need of immediate preservation. “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture” is one of only seven designated Save America’s Treasures projects in Kansas.

The exhibit showcases 29 surviving handcrafted pieces, including dowry chests, clocks, cradles and wardrobes ranging from pre-1790 to 1910. Many of the pieces are large and sturdy, constructed of ash or pine. The builders added decorative touches using inlaid veneer, paint or satin. For a more personal touch, they often marked the largest pieces with dates and the names or initials of the owner or maker.

Establishment of this new permanent exhibit has been made possible in part by the Kauffman Museum Association; the Institute of Museum Library Services, a federal agency that fosters innovation, leadership and lifetime learning; the Herbert Funk Family; and the Kansas Humanities Council, which promotes understanding of the history, traditions and ideas that shape our lives and communities.

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