Watkins Museum of History

The Max Kade Center’s (MKC) long-standing partnership with our good friends at the Watkins Museum History in downtown Lawrence began in fall 2017, when the Museum borrowed artifacts from our Lawrence Turnverein collection for display in a new exhibit created by curator Brittany Keegan, (now Curator of Exhibits and Collections): “Community and Culture:” The Lawrence Turnhalle.”

The Museum organized multiple related events in which Lorie Vanchena, director of the MKC, joined Keegan to speak with community organizations about German immigrant Turnverein culture in Lawrence. In collaboration with Lawrence Opera Theater and the MKC, the Watkins recreated a 19th-century Musikabend, for example,with German-American music taken largely from an authentic Turner song book. Vanchena provided commentary on the music’s German and German-American cultural and historical context. The Museum served German refreshments, and more than 100 guests were greeted at the door in German by KU German Studies students. The musical portion of the program concluded with an especially rousing rendition of the official Kansas state song, “Home on the Range.” The large crowd evidenced the presence of and interest in German ethnic history in our wider community. We continue to seek out opportunities to partner with the Watkins on programming, knowing this is the best way for the MKC to reach a wider community audience.

The MKC is committed to sponsoring an annual event at the Watkins to highlight and contextualize German ethnic history in our community and region. The first such program, a public lecture Vanchena presented in November 2019, “A century of German-American history 1820 – 1920,” was featured during the “Year of German-American friendship, or Wunderbar Together: Germany and the United States,” an initiative sponsored by the Goethe Institute, the cultural arm of the Federal Republic of Germany; the German Studies Association (GSA), the multi- and interdisciplinary association of scholars in German, Austrian, and Swiss history, literature, culture studies, political science, and economics.

This unique partnership between the Watkins, the MKC and the Goethe Institute was one of many sponsored public talks and other events held across the country that year to celebrate and improve transatlantic ties between Germany and the United States.

Our most recent programming collaboration with the Watkins Museum of History (February 2022), featured an online author talk with Alison Efford, Associate Professor of History, Marquette University, and author of A German Feminist and the US Civil War: The Radical Politics and Relationships of Mathilde Franziska Anneke.

Efford’s talk, livestreamed on the Watkins Museum of History Facebook, Twitter and Watkins Museum YouTube, provided new perspectives on the war, helping situate Lawrence’s important role in the early Civil War (Bleeding Kansas), which the Watkins highlights in exhibits and in annual programming. Efford shared new perspectives on the war’s broader transatlantic significance and on gender and sexuality.