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Program to feature alumnus research on Mennonite dowry chest

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Visitors will have two chances in late September to see Kauffman Museum’s current special exhibition free of charge.

In honor of Kansas’ 150th year of statehood, the museum on the Bethel College campus is hosting “Awesome 150: Museum Friends Share Their Favorites.”

Saturday, Sept. 24, is the annual Smithsonian Museum Day, sponsored by Smithsonian magazine. With a ticket that can be downloaded at smithsonianmag.com/museumday, two people can visit participating museums, which include Kauffman Museum, free of charge.

And Sunday, Sept. 25, admission to “Awesome 150” is free and open to the public in conjunction with the first Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum event of the school year, which will feature a 2007 Bethel College graduate and his research partner at the University of Kansas.

Braden Conrad-Hiebner and Ruth Walters will present “Value beyond Price: Using Material Culture to Understand Daily Life and Beliefs” at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 25 in the Kauffman Museum auditorium.

As part of their coursework in a graduate program in museum studies, Conrad-Hiebner and Walters researched the Katharina Dück/Dueck dowry chest that is part of the museum’s permanent exhibit “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture.” They will discuss how the concept of material culture can be applied to extracting meaning beyond monetary value from everyday artifacts such as furniture.

Conrad-Hiebner was history major at Bethel and is a current graduate student in museum studies while Walters received her undergraduate degree in 2009 from the University of Missouri and completed her M.A. in museum studies at KU in spring 2011.

Kauffman Museum purchased the dowry chest that Conrad-Hiebner and Walters researched from an antiques collection in 2005 – so unlike many of the pieces in “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” which came from descendants of the furniture’s original owners, there was not much family history with the chest. Conrad-Hiebner and Walters will share new information from their research as well as expand on the label in the exhibition.

According to that label, the chest dates from 1863 and is made of stained wood with brass and iron fittings. It belonged to Katharina Dück of Fürstenwerder, a village in the Vistula Delta. Since the back of the chest is marked “Samara,” the Dück family was likely among the Prussian Mennonites who migrated to the Volga River area in 1853.

A list of all Kansas museums – including 10 in Wichita and the Wichita area, and the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson – participating in Smithsonian Museum Day can also be found at smithsonianmag.com/museumday.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the current special exhibit, “Awesome 150,” as well as the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its website, www.bethelks.edu/kauffman/.

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