A Traveling Exhibition
Project documentation
German only, 30 MB PDF


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2013 Giessen
2014 Bremen
2014 Washington, D.C.
2015 St. Louis, Missouri

UTOPIA deals with being on the road and indeed actually travels, as well – in many boxes within a cargo container. The Traveling Summer Republic transforms the emigrants' search into concrete experiences, and the team's every arrival and farewell becomes a public event. The exhibits are unpacked, the travel trunks become the architecture, the doors to the past are opened: Come stay a while and explore! Childhood dreams, rebellions, and lifelong friendships await you in photos, sounds, and writings. Freedom, equality, and brotherhood, religion and assassinations are all to be found and discovered. Crossing the Atlantic, wine-growing, and slavery are examined as well. Old documents from the Utopians and recent interviews with the descendants are shared. At the end of every visit the trunks become still, the papers are rolled up, the books are closed. Everything is packed up and stowed away. And onwards!
Mittwoch, 17. Juni 2015
20:15 pm
Gießen „Utopia is coming back!“ – Teil 1
Donnerstag, 18. Juni 2015
ab 17 Uhr
Gießen „Utopia is coming back!“ – Teil 2
Sonntag, 12. Juni 2015
12 bis 16 Uhr
Harriersand „Looking back to Utopia“
Sunday, 12 July 2015
8.30 am
Missouri "Summer Bus Tour through Utopia"

Sonntag, 6. September 2015
12 Uhr
Berlin „Utopia coming to Berlin!”

23 September to
1 October 2015

“The Dawn of Utopia”



“Utopia” in the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis. The short video shows the Utopia exhibit, events and loading in April 2015.


“A Utopia Tour” - Historian Dorris Keeven-Franke invites you to a 42 minutes tour through the Utopia exhibit in the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis. The tour was taped on April 19, 2015.


The video installations by Manfred Hielscher form in the exhibition an interface between the documentary archive and the research trips. Its most important aspect is
how it allows the visitor to jump into the stories, from which a kaleidoscope of perspectives on the era of the Giessen Emigration Society and the life of its people
Under the title VideoBook Dialog, you can find three installations in the exhibition: “Ralph Gregory – World of Ideas”, “Wine Land”, and “Books and Stones”. The
construction of these works occurred by drawing upon everyday situations: Two pages of an open book, two people sitting across from one another, a conversation
at a table. A dialog develops from two narrative sequences on two monitors. The video installations are small rest stops in the exhibition room. Here the visitors can
watch, listen, and enter a conversation with another person.
About “Wine Land”: The German immigrants in the 1830s to 1850s established schools and newspapers in Missouri. They bought land, founded farms and wineries
and they changed the cultural and political landscape. Close to the farm of Gottfried Duden a Johann Wilhelm Bock from Dutzow in Mecklenburg, Germany, founded
the settlement Dutzow, Missouri. The “Blumenhof Winery” in Dutzow, “Mount Pleasant” in Augusta and the town of Hermann are places of winegrowing – places for
the search of traces of the Giessen Emigration Society.

“Tandem Guides” (video in German). Young students from schools in Bremen, Germany have worked with the Utopia exhibit since its' first opening in Giessen, Germany as Tandem Guides. Familiar with the story of the exhibition, they created performances and programs. The video shows an excerpt of their performance in the St. Stephen Cultural Church in Bremen, Germany in 2014. In 2015 they visited St. Louis Missouri and brought their vision of Utopia. While familiar with the issues of emigration and immigration – also because of their personal backgrounds – they had opportunities to exchange their ideas with Missouri History Museum's Teens Make History program.

Artistic director Katrin Bretschneider; historic advisor Kathrin Klug; project manager Dorothee Dentler, Nikolas Napierala et al.. A project by Kultur Vor Ort e.V in collaboration with Traveling Summer Republic. This project is possible through the assistance of public funding and private donations in Germany and the United States with special thanks to the St. Louis Stuttgart Sister Cities Program.


”Muss i denn Tours & Cargo Trips” was an interactive, artistic project within the traveling exhibit Utopia.
Muss i denn Tours accompanied the exhibition on its way and offered its travelers the possibility for a temporary trial-emigration, a three-day trip from Giessen to Bremen, which included an extensive training program regarding the subjects of farewell and welcome.
Cargo Trips, the affiliate for permanent relocation of objects, brought selected items carefully along with the traveling exhibition. They could be checked in the travel agency, wished farewell, and then sent off into the distance where they found adoptive parents and a new home.
At times when the exhibition was open, but the travel agency not staffed by its competent travel agents, this video (here in the English version for the locations Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, Missouri) provided information about the project.

Travel guide: Esther Steinbrecher; travel musician: Klaus Seifert

Exhibit in St. Louis
November 2014 - April 2015
In the Lammert Gallery

Lammert Gallery - VideoBook Ralph Gregory

  Video installation in the Piper Gallery   In the Piper Gallery
“The Principle of Hope” exhibit in the Utopia container   Utopia container with photo exhibit in front of the Missouri History Museum   The Grand Hall of the Missouri History Museum

Grand Opening in St. Louis
Video “Expeditions to Lake Creek, Dutzow”   Visitors in the Utopia gallery in the Missouri History Museum

  Guided tour with Oliver Behnecke, Maja Maria Liebau and Hendrik Weiner
Utopia installation team, center Dr. Frances Levine, President of the Missouri History Museum   Herbert Quelle, the German Consul General in Chicago   Museum members and guests

Exhibit in Washington DC
Traveling Summer Republic issues diplomatic passports to  museum staff   Goethe-Institut „Deutsch am Mittag“ in the exhibit   Tour for Muench family - Dorris Keeven-Franke (right) in conversation with Christine Shoemaker

Exhibit entry   A view in the exhibit   To Arms!

Arrival in Baltimore and
grand opening in
Washington DC
Arrival of the Utopia truck in Washington DC   Exhibit designer H. Weiner in conversation with Muench descendants   Kader Sandoval, Petra Schuermann (GAHM), Dr. Uwe Spiekermann (GHI)

Baltimorians welcome the lonely immigrant Esther Steinbrecher   Esther presents an emigration object   Re-opening of the Immigrant House for 1 night

Exhibition Bremen
April - July 2014
World Refugee Day – event in collaboration with the Bremen Council for Integration   Cultural Church St Stephen   Exhibit designer Hendrik Weiner builds a new crate, commissioned by the German Historical Institute Washington DC
Tandem Guide performance by Bremen students
photo: Frank Scheffka
  Arrival of the Bremen Town Musicians in Bremen   Young filmmakers -
program by Filmbüro Bremen

Video Block: Slavery   Delivery of an object for permanent emigration   Workshop "Simulation of the European Union"

Grand Opening
in Bremen
Grand opening in the Cultural Church   Utopia speech by Dr Helmut Hafner   In front of the Cultural Church

Guided tour by Oliver Behnecke   Edda Bosse, Dieter Niermann, Klaus Becker, O. Behnecke   Sound box in the Bremen exhibit

Exhibition Giess
November - December 2013

Maja Maria Liebau   Crates as display cases   Overview

Travel agency   Utopia Today   Cinema

Visitor in the archive

  The Archive by day   The Archive at night

Grand Opening

in Giessen
Grand opening   Guests

  Young guests
Carol Muench and Dorris Keeven-Franke, Missouri

  Mayor Dietlind Grabe-Bolz, Giessen

  Oliver Behnecke, Bremen


Talk given by Jeannette van Laak, Giessen   Talk „Giessen – Place of Longing“   Talk given by Kilian Spiethoff (Bad Reichenhall) about the Follen Brothers

Kaffeeklatsch with Carol Muench   Tasting of red wine by Manuela Weichenrieder, Bremen

  Tasting of white wine
Performance by Transit Giessen group   Workshop „Tandem Guides“   Pupils from Bremen and Giessen

The Container

Bremen, September 2013
Get Access   Our exhibit container   Will soon be filled

Meeting of the Exhibition Staff
Venue KiZ - Culture in the Center, Giessen

April 2013

From left: Oliver Behnecke, Henry Schneider

  From left: Maja Maria Liebau, Hendrik Weiner, Rolf Schmidt   Jacob Carl Kahl, a radical Giessen University student, ca. 1819
The exhibition team explores the venue

  Materials are sorted   A document of major importance: The Call for Emigration, July 1833

Video: Passenger on the ferry "Ostertor" in Bremen tell their personal stories of emigration and immigration

  Letter of little Adolf to his father Friedrich, 1834: "build us a house. com back to us soon." (detail)   Video: Four pupils tell about their Utopia
In 1859, Friedrich Muench traveled to Germany to propagate German emigration to Missouri   Ralph Gregory, historian and philosopher, researched since decades about the Giessen Emigration Society   Rehearsal of the SPLASH youth theatre group on the Harriersand Island in the River Weser. Their play "Waiting for Medora" tells the story of 250 Giessen Society members on the remote island

Research Travels
2009 – 2013

Ludwig Brake presents a portrait of Friedrich Muench in Ralph Gregory’s home, Missouri

  Monika Kiesewetter and Rolf Schmidt study the Muench Family Papers in the Reading Room of the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis   Account book of Friedrich Muench (detail): income and expenditures during the stay on the Harriersand Island in May 1834
Video: Dana Kunze, a descendant of the Giessen Emigration Society, in Altenburg, Thuringia
  Video shooting in a tributary of the Missouri River   Friedrich Muench’s gravestone on the Muench family cemetery at Lake Creek, Missouri

Event Travel

"Island Congress", Harriersand, founding event of the Traveling Summer Republic, 2005

  “Great Giessen Escape“, Giessen-Bremen-Harriersand-Bremerhaven, 2006   “Ship Congress 2009“, Harriersand Island Workshop on the site of the historic farm
“A Trip to a Forgotten Utopia”, an evening walk through Missouri in Bremen, 2010
  “Utopia Revisited”, a bus journey to the historic farms of Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius, Missouri, 2011   “Must Wander“, the closing event at the beach of the River Weser, Bremen, 2012