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Hesston professor to update Kauffman Museum work in Uzbekistan

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A faculty member from Hesston College will relate the latest chapter in Bethel College’s ongoing relationship with a museum in Uzbekistan.

John E. Sharp, Hesston College historian and a professor of history, will present the next Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum event, Aug. 10 at Kauffman Museum on the Bethel College campus. Sharp traveled to Khiva and Ak Metchet, Uzbekistan, earlier this summer and will update the progress of a Mennonite exhibition under development at the Ichan Kala Museum in Khiva.

James Juhnke, Bethel College emeritus professor of history, visited Uzbekistan with a tour group in spring 2007. Their search for the roots of a Mennonite emigration story more than 125 years old led to Kauffman Museum’s signing an agreement Nov. 9, 2007, with the Ichan Kala Museum to collaborate on a project portraying the life and contributions of Mennonites who lived at Ak Metchet, nine miles from Khiva, from 1884-1935.

Those Mennonites were part of the 1880 “Great Trek” to Central Asia. They had fled Russia to avoid military conscription, to find land on a new frontier and to seek a place of refuge in what they expected to be the “end times.”

In the 1970s, the Ichan Kala Museum collected some Mennonite artifacts for a section about Ak Metchet in a larger exhibit on the history of the Khiva region. Those artifacts, now in storage, will be the core of the new exhibit.

Sharp’s program is entitled “Great Trek Mennonites remembered: Khiva museum on track.” He will also provide information about the tour being organized to coincide with the grand opening of the exhibition in May 2009.

The Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum program begins at 3:30 p.m. at the museum and is free and open to the public.

Kauffman Museum is located at 27th and Main in North Newton. Regular museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (closed Mondays and major holidays). For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or e-mail, or visit the Web site at

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