Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Diaries of Panorama Painter Friedrich Wilhelm Heine

One of the MKI’s current projects is a collaboration with the Milwaukee County Historical Society and the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend to transcribe into modern German script and eventually translate into English the diaries of German-Milwaukeean panorama painter Friedrich Wilhelm Heine. From 1879 until his death in 1921, Heine kept a most meticulous daily diary in which he recorded every aspect of his life. The diary is written in miniscule old German script that is unintelligible even to most native German speakers today. Therefore we are delighted to have received a major grant from the Milwaukee Bradley Foundation that recognizes the tremendous importance of Heine’s writings and supports the hiring of a team of transcription experts for the first phase of the project.

Heine was already a well-known artist in Dresden, Germany when he came to Milwaukee in the summer of 1885. He had been recruited by Chicago businessman William Wehner to help establish the “American Panorama Company.” In the second half of the nineteenth century, ‘panoramas’ or ‘cycloramas’ were the newest wave of art and entertainment. Huge circular buildings dominated the skyline of most major European and American cities. They exhibited 360-degree paintings that frequently covered close to 15,000 square feet of canvas, depicting mostly battle scenes, other historic or religious events, and landscapes. Sometimes called the “IMAXes of the nineteenth century,” these giant installations fell out of favor with the advent of the motion picture. Canvasses were dismantled and destroyed and the art form was largely forgotten. Scholars around the world now eagerly await Heine’s words in an accessible format to learn more about the world of panorama, the German-American art scene, the life of a German immigrant, and so much more. Members of the Friends of MKI will also find more information on the project and a detailed report on the International Panorama Symposium - that we held on November 1 at the Museum in West Bend - in the summer and winter 2008 issues of the MKI Friends newsletter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Richard Zeitlin, 1945-2008

Richard Zeitlin, longtime Director of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, passed away last week. For many people interested in the history of German immigration to Wisconsin, Richard Zeitlin’s book “Germans in Wisconsin” provided a first and concise introduction. At the MKI, we worked and consulted with Richard Zeitlin on a number of projects over the years. We were always grateful that he so freely shared his incredible knowledge of military history, Civil War history, and more specifically the history of German-Americans in the military. Many of us fondly remember the fascinating presentation he gave on "German-Americans in the Civil War" at our 2003 annual meeting.

Monday, December 1, 2008

“Swiss Center of North America” opens in New Glarus, Wisconsin

On December 6, the Swiss Center of North America in New Glarus, Wisconsin will celebrate its grand opening. You are invited to join the festivities on 507 Durst Road between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. The idea of a Swiss cultural center grew out of the realization that descendants of Swiss immigrants have artifacts, books, papers, collections and other items they would like to see preserved and used to help tell the story of the Swiss in North America. However, unlike other ethnic groups, no national depository archive, library museum or center existed to portray the Swiss migration to North America. In 1999, New Glarus was chosen to become home of the Swiss Center of North America amidst enthusiastic local support as well as strong support from the State of Wisconsin, corporations like Nestle and Novartis, and the government of Switzerland.

MKI Director Cora Lee Kluge receives "Bundesverdienstkreuz"

We are delighted to announce that MKI Director Cora Lee Kluge was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Federal Order of Merit) by the Federal Republic of Germany ― the highest such honor bestowed to a foreigner by the German government ― for her work in furthering German-American understanding and friendship and her contributions to the fields of German-American Studies and German language and literature education. The award was presented by German Consul General Wolfgang Drautz in a special ceremony on November 24 at the Memorial Union in Madison.