By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
We’ve always enjoyed visiting ethnic museums. Each time we see a new one, we’re reminded of the rich heritage our ancestors have brought to these shores. All nationalities, all cultures: we’re all Americans.
1. Polish American Museum, Port Washington, New York
Located in the former Port Washington Public Library, this 30-room museum houses 15 exhibit galleries, a research library and archives, a lecture hall, and a gift shop. It exhibits some of the contributions made by people of Polish heritage to the fields of medicine, education, art, science, and political theory. The museum houses paintings, drawings, and photographs by Polish artists, along with old maps and other memorabilia, including Polish and international dolls in authentic regional costumes. Location: 16 Belleview Ave. in Port Washington; phone: (516) 883-6542.
2. National Museum Of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Established in 1976 and situated on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, this is the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to preserving and interpreting artifacts of the American Jewish experience. The museum’s collection numbered only 40 objects its first year; it now contains more than 10,000 items related to 300 years of American Jewish life. Its location at the birthplace of American liberty is ideal for an institution that celebrates the freedoms that allow Jewish Americans to flourish. Location: Independence Mall East, 55 N. Fifth St. in Philadelphia; phone: (215) 923-3811.
3. African American Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1976 in celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial, the African American Museum in Philadelphia collects, preserves, and interprets the material and intellectual culture of African Americans. It tells the story of African Americans in political, religious, and family life, as well as the Civil Rights movement, arts and entertainment, sports, medicine, architecture, law, and technology. Location: Seventh and Arch streets, in the city’s Historic District, one block from Independence National Historic Park; phone: (215) 574-0380.
4. The Scottish Tartans Museum, Franklin, North Carolina
Why such a museum, and why in North Carolina? Two reasons “” more people wear kilts in the United States than in Scotland, and North Carolina claims to have more people of Scottish descent than Scotland. The museum includes a house similar to the homes Scottish immigrants left behind. It has looms like those used for weaving tartans, and it interprets the culture of tartans “” who wears one, and which one you are entitled to wear. Location: 86 E. Main St. in Franklin; phone: (828) 524-7472.
5. Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center, Frisco, North Carolina
Thanks to the preservation efforts of Carl Bornfriend, this museum displays impressive relics of American Indian cultures. Visitors can view exhibits of how the first people arrived and what animals they encountered 12,000 years ago. Artifacts include birch-bark canoes, beads and beadwork, silver jewelry, and basketry. You’ll also learn about American Indian foods and homes, and see an old dugout canoe recovered on museum property. Located on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina; phone: (252) 995-4440.
6. The Danish Immigrant Museum, Elk Horn, Iowa
Built as an international cultural center, its exhibits recount the story of the Danish immigrant, from his decision to leave Denmark, to his establishing new homes, schools, and churches in America. This museum is an ongoing project. The museum building suggests a traditional Danish farm, and future expansion will add connected buildings around a central courtyard. Location: 2212 Washington St. in Elk Horn; phone: (800) 759-9192.
7. The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
The performing arts, religion, political history, language, and immigrant experiences are just some of the topics that come to life at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. One of the highlights is the museum’s collection of folk costumes from Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. Other exhibits feature folk art and fine art, maps and rare books, glass and ceramics, stamps, and a Czech motorcycle, plus a restored home furnished as it was in the 19th century when it belonged to Czech immigrants in Cedar Rapids. Location: 30 – 16th Ave. S.W. in Cedar Rapids; phone: (319) 362-8500.
8. Mennonite Heritage Museum, Goessel, Kansas
This museum interprets the story of the Mennonite families who left Russia for religious freedom in 1874. They settled on the Kansas plains. Six historic buildings have been moved to the museum “” Goessel State Bank, Schroeder Barn, Friesen Home, Immigrant House, One Room Rural School, and the Museum Store. In these buildings the museum displays artifacts from early households, farms, schools, and churches in the Mennonite community. The museum is closed in January and February and is at 200 N. Poplar in Goessel; phone: (620) 367-8200.
9. American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Turnblad mansion, which houses the museum, was completed in 1908. An example of chateauesque architecture, it is filled with intricately carved oak, walnut, and mahogany interiors, complete with painted plaster sculpturing on the ceilings. The museum showcases Swedish glass, decorative and fine arts, textiles, and other items from Sweden. Location: 2600 Park Ave. in Minneapolis; phone: (612) 871-4907.
10. The Anasazi Heritage Center, Dolores, Colorado
Southwest Colorado’s premier archaeological museum depicts the lengthy human occupation of the Four Corners region. It also is the starting point for visits to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The museum features exhibits on archaeology, local history, and American Indian culture, as well as a research collection of more than three million artifacts and records from archaeological projects in Southwest Colorado. Location: 27501 Highway 184 in Dolores; phone: (970) 882-4811.
11. The Wing Luke Asian Museum, Seattle, Washington
This cultural treasure is nestled in the heart of Seattle’s International District. The Wing Luke collects, preserves, and displays artifacts of Asian Pacific American culture, history, and art. As a multidisciplinary cultural center, it presents arts and heritage exhibitions, public programs, school tours, publications, and films, and maintains a permanent collection and research center. The museum is located at 407 Seventh Ave. S. in Seattle; phone: (206) 623-5124.
12. Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle, Washington
Dedicated to collecting, preserving, and educating the public, the Nordic Heritage Museum is the only museum in the United States to honor immigrants from the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Textiles, china, books, woodworking tools, photographs, and myriad other treasures were brought from the Old Country to enrich the immigrants’ lives in a new land. The museum’s five ethnic galleries, one for each country, illustrate the differences and the bonds linking Scandinavian people in the Pacific Northwest. Location: 3014 N.W. 67th St. in Seattle; phone: (206) 789-5707.
13. Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, California
The serenity of water falling on stone and the scent of flowering trees invite visitors to enter a museum that is both educational and painful. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. government ordered everyone of Japanese ancestry into relocation camps. Those years are the focus of the museum displays “” an original barracks from the camp located at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, along with artifacts from the camps, and many photographs depicting the internment. Location: 369 E. First St. in Los Angeles; phone: (213) 625-0414.