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Museums join to give historical prologue to new TV film on migration

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Kauffman Museum at Bethel College and Warkentin House in Newton are joining for a special impromptu “Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum” event celebrating a new film.

May 28 at 3 p.m. in the museum auditorium, David Moon of the University of York (United Kingdom) will give a lecture that serves as a prequel to the recently completed film America: Promised Land, which is scheduled to air on the History cable channel May 29-30.

Interviews with descendants of those whose stories are featured in America: Promised Land, and geographical imagery that showcases the history of how America was populated, help to uncover the great forces that set humankind in motion in the 19th century.

Airing over two nights, the series chronicles the massive immigration patterns of ethnic groups to the United States through historical events such as the Dutch fur trade; the creation of the postage stamp by Irish immigrants; the California Gold Rush; Germans coming to the aid of the Union Army during the Civil War; the Great Migration of African Americans to the North and West; and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, which reduced travel time across America from six months to one week.

Among the stories featured in the film is that of the Mennonites who migrated from Russia and Prussia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Moon, the Anniversary Professor in History at the University of York, will present a lecture titled “The Amerikan Steppe: Influences from Russia and Ukraine on the Great Plains, 1870s-1930s.”

He will talk about how these influences helped transform the American Great Plains from grassland to a major agricultural region (albeit with recurring drought, including the Dust Bowl) over about 60 years.

Among them: new crop varieties, including the famous Turkey Red winter wheat; farming and forestry techniques; and modern soil science – all adapted from Russia and Ukraine.

In addition to farmers (mostly ethnic Germans, including the Mennonites), some scientists (mostly Jewish) also made the journey from the steppes to the Great Plains, and played important roles. Moon’s talk draws on research carried out in Russia, Ukraine and the United States.

America: Promised Land is a two-part series, with the “Mennonite story” contained in Part 2 (airing May 30).

Like all Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum events, the May 28 one is free and open to the public.

May 28 is also the final day to see the 2016–17 special exhibit “Memory Matters: Works by Gesine Janzen,” which draws on the artist’s own research, memories and imagination about her Russian Mennonite ancestors who came to south-central Kansas from Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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 special exhibit “Memory Matters: Works by Gesine Janzen,” 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 – free to attenders of the May 28 program and 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/, or Facebook page.

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