German American Heritage Center | Midwest Living

German American Heritage Center

712 W. 2nd St.
Davenport  Iowa  52802
United States
(563) 322-8844

Midwest Living Review

Sara Reimer
A new interactive exhibit makes the German-immigrant experience in Iowa come alive.

The German American Heritage Center's new permanent "German Immigrant Experience" exhibit offers an honest, in-depth look at the lives of German immigrants in Davenport and throughout Iowa from 1845 to 1925. Housed in the historic brick former Germania House, an immigrant hotel built in 1861, the small but well-executed exhibit features a solid mix of educational wall displays, historic photos, artifacts and interactive stations (a hit with kids and adults!). A 15-minute video sets the stage for the exhibit. Visitors wind through a series of rooms, learning about the roles of German immigrants in agriculture, politics, education, Prohibition. The interactive exhibits are the highlights, especially a station called Step into my Shoes. Visitors can step on footprints in front of a life-size vertical TV screen that shows actors who tell immigration stories taken from real diaries. There's also an immigrant clothing dress-up station for the kids, two reconstructed historic hotel rooms and other interactive stations throughout the exhibit. The exhibit also reveals the hardships of being a German immigrant. A series of wallboards explain anti-German sentiments during and after World War I. After the United States declared war against Germany, many Americans feared their German-immigrant friends. German immigrants were forced to give up their language and traditions, so many aspects of the culture was not passed down to younger generations. Expect to spend one to two hours exploring the exhibit. The center also offers two rotating exhibits and hosts various events and workshops throughout the year. A small gift shop on the first floor offers traditional German souvenirs: cuckoo clocks, beer steins, Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers and lace.

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