Several years of effort to gather the history of a substantial South Dakota ethnic group are coming to fruition with the grand opening of the South Dakota Germans from Russia Cultural Center. The Center can be found in Beulah Williams Library on the campus of Northern State University.
The South Dakota Germans for Russia Cultural Heritage Center is over 2,000 square feet of exhibit, research, and performance space, and is available to the public during regular library hours.
The permanent exhibit traces the journey of the Germans from Russia to South Dakota and their impact on the history and culture of the state. It features images, documents, artifacts and excerpts from oral history interviews.
Included in the center is a research collection of books, publications, family histories, manuscript collections and artifacts. The research collection includes donations from throughout the state of South Dakota and from other states such as Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana, Virginia, and California.
Robert Russell, Library Director said "The story of the Germans from Russia in South Dakota is inseparably intertwined with the history of the state and region. Their experiences in immigration, agriculture, religion, and small town life are great examples of the commitment and perseverance of early settlers in SD. The Germans from Russia story is also a great tool to reflect on the important themes of the past 100 years - cultural integration of new immigrant groups, World Wars, the Great Depression, and dramatic changes in agriculture - and highlights just how much life in South Dakota has changed during that period."
The center was initiated by Williams Library staff, in conjunction with Germans from Russia across the state of South Dakota. Publications have been gathered for several years, with a formal development of the Center taking place in the past three years.
Gary Jerke, a major supporter of the Germans from Russia Cultural Center said “Germans from Russia are one of the primary ethnic groups to settle and build South Dakota. This center opens at a time when immigration and intercultural issues are on the front burner, and adds great value to not only the Northern State community, but also to our state as a whole."
The opening reception takes place Oct. 25, 6-8 PM and is free and open to the public. German-Russian hors d'oeuvres will be available. Traditional German-Russian music will be provided by Dr. William Wieland, professor of Music at NSU, on the Center's pump organ.
For more information, contact Robert Russell, Library Director at (605) 626-7770.