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Thiesen to give program in connection with special immigration exhibit

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Kauffman Museum at Bethel College announces two special Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum programs in connection with the current special exhibit “Americans by Choice: The Story of Immigration and Citizenship in Kansas.”

The first will be Sunday, Aug. 12, with John D. Thiesen, co-director of libraries at Bethel College and archivist for the Mennonite Library and Archives on campus, as the presenter.

Families researching the history of their immigrant ancestors often find assistance at the MLA. Over the years, Thiesen has helped many people learn about and access immigration and naturalization records.

Jean Svadlenak, an independent museum consultant, contacted Thiesen when researching stories of Kansas immigrants for the “Americans by Choice” project. Svadlenak was seeking exhibit items that would represent Mennonites as one of several well-known immigrant ethnic groups to the state.

Thiesen drew from his own family history to provide Svadlenak with photographs and records of Mennonites who immigrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thiesen’s contributions are currently on display as part of “Americans by Choice.”

In his Aug. 12 talk, “A Personal Perspective on Mennonite Immigration and Citizenship,” Thiesen will tell some of the stories behind the Mennonite images that appear in the exhibit and reflect on issues of becoming “Americans by Choice” from a second-generation immigrant point of view.

The program begins at 3:30 p.m. in the museum auditorium and is free and open to the public.

The second program is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3:30 pm, when Caleb Lázaro, a resident director and multicultural student adviser at Bethel College, will present “From Pioneers to Space Invaders: The Changing Face of Immigration in Pop Culture.”

Sept. 2 is the last day to see “Americans by Choice” at Kauffman Museum – the traveling exhibit will move next to the Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library in Abilene.

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 special exhibit “Americans by Choice,” 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,

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