‘The Homes They Left Behind’ photo exhibit at library Jan. 5-31


(12/31/2008)

“The Homes They Left Behind,” a photo exhibition arranged by Jean Ensch and Mary Nilles, will be on display in the Bell Reading Room of the Winona Public Library, January 5th through the 31st. The Opening Reception and Program will be held on Saturday, January 10th, 2:00 to 4:00 pm. This exhibition has been organized through the cooperation of various institutions and individuals, and grants from the Winona Foundation, Seattle, Washington, and the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture, Luxembourg City.

Other supporters include the City of Winona, the Dakota Unity Alliance, Project FINE, the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, Port Washington, Wisconsin; the Luxembourg Museum and Society, Rollingstone; the Polish Museum and Cultural Center, Winona; the Minnesota Historical Society, the New York Historical Society, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, New York City College of Technology (CUNY), Brooklyn, New York, Miami University of Ohio, and its Luxembourg campus; Winona State University and the Rollingstone Community Elementary School.

“The Homes They Left Behind” depicts the actual homes in which certain Winona County ancestors once resided. Images of these homes are arranged in chronological order, from the encampments of the D “The Homes They Left Behind,” a photo exhibition arranged by Jean Ensch and Mary Nilles, will be on display in the Bell Reading Room of the Winona Public Library, January 5th through the 31st. The Opening Reception and Program will be held on Saturday, January 10th, 2:00 to 4:00 pm. This exhibition has been organized through the cooperation of various institutions and individuals, and grants from the Winona Foundation, Seattle, Washington, and the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture, Luxembourg City.

Other supporters include the City of Winona, the Dakota Unity Alliance, Project FINE, the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, Port Washington, Wisconsin; the Luxembourg Museum and Society, Rollingstone; the Polish Museum and Cultural Center, Winona; the Minnesota Historical Society, the New York Historical Society, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, New York City College of Technology (CUNY), Brooklyn, New York, Miami University of Ohio, and its Luxembourg campus; Winona State University and the Rollingstone Community Elementary School.

“The Homes They Left Behind” depicts the actual homes in which certain Winona County ancestors once resided. Images of these homes are arranged in chronological order, from the encampments of the Dakotas near Winona (depicted in the paintings of Seth Eastman, c 1845), to houses of European immigrants still standing in 2009, to places the newest arrivals once called “home,” --houses, gardens and refugee camps spanning the globe, from Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, to Bosnia and the Sudan.

This exhibition presents actual photographs whenever possible. Some of these images taken in a refugee camp 30 years ago are a bit faded; some have been re-touched. Some locations—like homes in Luxembourg-- have been re-photographed recently. Amazingly, many European homes left behind over the past 150 years –if in a location that has avoided wars and other disasters--are still standing, sometimes repainted and repaired, sometimes given a new use. Rollingstone School children and their teachers have added art work (depictions of “My Home Today.”) And one wall features images of some of the buildings the 19th century immigrants erected immediately upon arrival in the Winona area, structures like the Pellowski and Marnach houses, with details imported from the “Old World.”

This exhibition represents a wide diversity of “immigration” to Winona County, from the arrival of the Dakotas, to families from Somalia. The phase of European immigration, 1855-1955, is represented by images from various countries, including Czechoslovakia, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, and Poland. The images donated by families connected to the outreach of Project Fine represent 15 different locations. Some of these photos appear on a poster designed for the exhibition by St. Mary’s of Minnesota student Matt Reuter.

Mary Nilles began to photograph the homes of the Luxembourger families who immigrated to Winona County while a Fulbright scholar in the Grand Duchy in the mid- 1970s. She and Jean Ensch, a genealogist and historian at the Population Bureau of the city of Luxembourg, have been researching as a team since January 1979. The “Homes” exhibition features some of Jean Ensch’s recent new photographs of sites first photographed by the team three decades ago. Some changes have occurred: a stable is now a restaurant; grey walls have been repainted bright blue or magenta! Several of the Luxembourger families who settled in Winona County , for example, Hilbert, Lemmer, Marnach, Majerus, Neyers, Nilles, Rivers, Schell, Siebenaler, Siewert, Schuh, Speltz, and Wagner, once lived in houses-barns built in the early 1800s; these structures survive today, stabilized through help from a Luxembourger government program focused on historic preservation.

Jim Stetina, Library director, cordially invites the public to view this exhibit and to attend the Program on Saturday, 10 January 2009, 2-4 pm. On that day Leonard Wabasha — future hereditary chief, Jean Ensch, Ron Galewski, Father Paul Breza, Fatima Said, Ken McCullough, Mary Nilles, Jean Kalmes and others have been invited to make presentations, and refreshments will be served.

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