‘Voices of Conscience’ on display in Freeman
National touring World War I exhibit at Freeman museum
FREEMAN — A national touring exhibit that was featured at the World War I Museum in Kansas City, Kansas, is on display at Heritage Hall Museum & Archives (HHM&A) in Freeman through April 24.
Titled “Voices of Conscience,” the exhibit premiered at the Remembering Muted Voices: Conscience, Dissent, Resistance and Civil Liberties in World War I through Today symposium at the Kansas City museum in October 2017. It then launched a tour across North America. The exhibit was created by the Kauffman Museum in North Newton, Kansas
Sponsored locally by HHM&A, the exhibit is located in the historic Bethel Church that is part of the Freeman museum complex. This is the second time the exhibit has been in Freeman. It was installed in early 2020 in anticipation of Schmeckfest. But the emergence of COVID-19 canceled Schmeckfest and suspended the exhibit tour. It was rescheduled to return to Freeman this year and installed in the church the second week of February. The pews on the main floor of the Bethel Church were temporarily removed to create space for the exhibit.
Admission to the exhibit is included with the regular museum admission. The museum is open weekday afternoons from noon to 4 p.m. In addition, the museum will open the exhibit at other times for groups. Call 605-925-7545 during regular hours or email the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Voices of Conscience remembers the witness of peace-minded people against the First World War, 1914-1918. This witness included men and women, religious believers and secular humanitarians, political protesters and sectarian separatists.
The “war to end all wars” involved troops from more than 100 nations, resulting in more than 38 million military and civilian deaths.
Many individuals resisted U.S. involvement in the war, the enactment of military conscription, war bond drives and the denial of freedom of speech under the Espionage and Sedition Acts. For this resistance, they suffered community humiliation, federal imprisonment and mob violence at the hands of a war-crusading American public.
Many of their stories converged in the Midwest. Nearly 600 conscientious objectors were imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth. Mennonite farmers in south central Kansas who refused to buy war bonds were tarred and feathered. A building at a Mennonite college was burned to the ground. The exhibit includes the locally well-known story of the deaths of the two South Dakota Hutterite men from Rockport Colony in 1918. The war also prompted questions over national loyalty.
The exhibit is organized in nine themes that encourage exploration and reflection. The theme modules surround a recreation of an Alcatraz Prison cell, the site where Hutterite conscientious objectors were punished for refusing military participation.
David Kreider, a Kauffman Museum staff member who travels with the exhibit, remarked, “It has been gratifying to see host sites add companion exhibits sharing the stories and artifacts from people in their own community who had a World War I peace witness.
“The exhibit also helps people reflect on who are the voices of conscience in our communities today.”
The Voices of Conscience exhibit received the 2020 American Association for State and Local History Award of Excellence.
Program scheduled in March
HHM&A is planning a special program next month, focusing on a local connection to the story, with support from a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council.
On Friday and Saturday evening, March 25 and 26, Dora Maendel of the Fairholme Hutterite Colony in Manitoba and Dr. Duane Stolzfus, professor of communication at Goshen (Indiana) College and author of Pacifists in Chains: The Persecution of Hutterites during the Great War will present “On the Front Line of Conscience: An Account of Four Hutterites Imprisoned at Alcatraz.” The evening program will be held at Pioneer Hall at 7:30 p.m. No admission will be charged but donations will be accepted.
About the museum
Heritage Hall Museum & Archives is a non-profit museum that tells the story of Germans-from-Russia immigrants and others who settled in southeastern Dakota Territory in the 1870s. It includes more than 25,000 square feet of displays of artifacts ranging from household items to agricultural equipment. The archives library includes more than 10,000 books, maps, periodicals and photos. The complex is located south of the Freeman Academy campus and sits on the northern edge of the sprawling Prairie Arboretum. It includes four historic buildings: a one-room schoolhouse, an 1879 pioneer home and two early rural churches.