Wyandotte County museum receives grant to expand Jewish collection
The Wyandotte County Historical Society and Museum in Bonner Springs has received a grant that will help it expand an exhibit on loan from the United States Holocaust Museum next year.
The Kansas Humanities Council awarded the museum a $2,690 Humanities grant to help it create “Our Jewish Past,” a display that will detail the history of the Jewish community in the county, in conjunction with this spring’s exhibition of “Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings” from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Trish Schurkamp, project director for the county museum, said the grant would cover the cost of speakers, including a Holocaust survivor, while the exhibit is in town, as well as the creation of the display sharing Wyandotte County’s unique Jewish history.
“There’s a whole lot of very important people that we need to recognize, and say that, yes, we had this very important Jewish past that really contributed to Wyandotte County, and still continues to do so in some ways,” Schurkamp said.
Schurkamp said the museum applied to have the “Fighting Fires of Hate” exhibit from April 10 to June 17, so it would be at the museum for Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be May 2 in 2011.
The exhibition focuses on how a series of book burnings, initiated by German university students on May 10, 1933, became a powerful symbol during World War II, prompting counter demonstrations in New York and other American cities. Many American writers’ books were burned as well. Among the noted writers were Ernest Hemingway, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller and Jack London.
Ironically, among those books targeted for destruction were the works of Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, who in 1822 penned the prophetic words, “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too” — a note Schurkamp said is significant.
“I think it’s something we need to remember and look at, and I think it’s important for us to remember our past,” she said.
The county museum’s companion exhibit, “Our Jewish Past,” will highlight contributions made by the Jewish community to the county’s history. This museum exhibition, which will later be a traveling exhibition, will feature 10 large color panels, highlighting businesses, synagogues and individuals of Wyandotte County.
Three synagogues that were originally located in Wyandotte County, including Ohev Shalom, the oldest in the State of Kansas, will be featured in the exhibit. And the focus will also be placed on prominent Jewish Wyandotte County families, as well as Jewish businesses, such as Home State Bank, Ohev Shalom Synagogue, Helzberg Jewelers, Feld Chevrolet, Leader Clothing, Asner Scrapmetal and Katz Drug Stores.
Schurkamp said the museum is beginning to look for docents to help once the exhibit is here, because she is expecting the exhibit and related programs to increase attendance significantly.
“We’ve done very, very little promoting, but we’re already getting schools and organizations booking programs just by word of mouth,” she said. “… I do think we’ll see numbers that we’ve never seen before; people that we’ve never seen before.”