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Articles in the news - TRACES museum closes

Nov 8, 2008

TRACES WWII Museum closes soon

When thinking of those affected by the recession, museums might not be the first thing that jumps to mind. However, museum are often hit hard in economically depressed times as well. Citing lack of funds in hard times financially, on November 9th, TRACES Center for History and Culture closes its doors for good.
For those that have never been to the museum located in the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul, TRACES documents the Midwest experience during World War II, from Holocaust survivors who found refuge in Minnesota, to POWs from both axis and ally sides, and German–American citizens who were forced into intern camps at the height of U.S. paranoia. The museum is the only of its kind.
At noon on Thursday, November 6, Executive Director Michael Luick-Thrams will lead a public tour of the museum, and talk about the TRACES project itself. Though the museum will be closing, their website www.traces.org will continue to be available as a resource, and plans to tour the museum’s travelling exhibit, the BUS-seum through the Midwest and eventually to Germany continue.
By Jessica Armbruster

October 30, 2008

St. Paul museum dedicated to WWII history to close in November

The Twin Cities' only museum dedicated to World War II history will close next month.
Since it opened in 2005, Traces Center for History and Culture in Landmark Center in St. Paul has displayed hundreds of photographs, posters, artwork, stories and other documentation of Midwesterners' encounters with Germans or Austrians during World War II. The museum's last day will be Nov. 9, Michael Luick-Thrams, the museum's executive director, said Thursday.
"It's sad that we will close in 10 days," said Luick-Thrams. "We are the only permanent, full, World War II exhibit in the Twin Cities and we won't exist anymore." At least in a physical location.
The nonprofit museum has two buses that circle the Upper Midwest, bringing to small towns some of the artifacts and stories of refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe who settled in the Midwest.
Traces also will continue to operate its website, www.traces.org.
Over the past three years, more than 110,000 people have walked through one of Traces' mobile exhibits to view such items as soldiers' personal diaries and photos of concentration camp victims taken by soldiers from Minnesota. But the number of visitors stopping by its St. Paul home base has dropped precipitously in recent months, prompting Luick-Thrams to close up shop.
"People love our museum and we excelled," said Luick-Thrams, who spent many years in Germany researching aspects of the war. "But people are cautious to part with their money and schools are scared to book field trips."
Luick-Thrams spent about $70,000 to build displays to house the artifacts and placards he collected over 10 years.
His concern now is what to do with the collection.
"We need a good home for all of this stuff. I feel as if I'm cutting off a part of myself."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Museum in St. Paul Feels Wall Street Woes

The only museum devoted to World War II in Minnesota’s Twin Cities is falling victim to the recession, its founder said this week.
Michael Luick-Thrams, the founder and executive director of the Traces museum, said it would close its doors in the Landmark Center in St. Paul on Nov. 9.
There are about 280 military museums that are members of the American Association of Museums, of which about 20 are devoted to World War II. Traces, which has an annual budget less than $250,000, is not one of them.
Mr. Luick-Thrams said that as the economy has sputtered the number of visitors to the museum and its two traveling exhibitions, known as “bus-eums,” has declined sharply.
Revenue from the traveling exhibitions has been used to help underwrite the operating costs of the museum — which documents the relationship between the Midwestern states and Nazi Germany — since it opened in 2005. Generally, a library, museum or university pays an exhibition fee to bring in one of the two buses, and visitors are allowed on the bus at no cost. The museum has charged no more than $5 for adults.
“Museums and libraries are terrified that they’re not going to find funding,” Mr. Luick-Thrams said. “And so they’re cutting things already that are, quote, expendable — things that are not fundamental to their mission statement, things that aren’t basic operation expenses. They’re not willing to commit.”
And local schools, he said, are cutting back on field trips.
The museum drew several thousand visitors a year and the buses had drawn about 110,000 over the last four years, the executive director said.
“We hope to keep our stories out there, circulating,” he said, adding that he plans to keep the Web site operating and hopes the buses will continue to tour. In some instances the exhibitions will be displayed without the buses.
“We’re finding it really a challenge to get organizations to say, ‘O.K., we’ll commit to that,’ ” he said. “And they tell us our fees are not too high. They’re afraid where the funding’s going to come from.”
The museum tries to show the human connections between people in wartime and has received support from Holocaust survivors as well as German-Americans. He noted that some Germans helped American prisoners of war and that some German immigrants were treated poorly when they arrived in the United States. “I am pained to think that these stories we worked so hard to preserve could go lost,” Mr. Luick-Thrams said.
In the meantime, he said, he is trying to find homes for some of the 24 exhibits in the St. Paul museum. “I’ve left so many messages for the Holocaust museum in Skokie,” he said. “I’ve called so many times the U.S. Holocaust museum in Washington. It’s such a big bureaucratic institution, you can’t get anybody.”


October 30, 2008

WW II history museum is not recession-proof

In recessions the casualties pile up fast and span pretty much every facet of society. The Ford plant shutting down for December or a Target shareholder attempting to boost the company's stock value by selling the land under the stores, the economy is hitting everybody. The Traces Center for History and Culture is no different. The museum located in downtown St. Paul's Landmark Center is closing Nov. 9. Their traveling WWII "bus-seum" will continue to visit schools and libraries. Full press release below.
(Saint Paul/MN) Even in the best of times, funding for cultural organizations remains elusive and ever precarious. Now, though, in a very short time, a usually unfavorable climate for non-profits has turned downright miserable. It’s so bad, that the Twin Cities’ only WWII-history museum will close its doors in a little more than ten days. TRACES Center for History and Culture is unique: it is the only museum in the United States that documents one region’s connections to another country while at war. With its two-dozen exhibits in downtown Saint Paul’s historic Landmark Center, it documents refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe who found a safe haven in the Midwest, German-American civilian internees in U.S Government camps, POWs on both sides—and many more stories, including Anne Frank’s Iowa pen pal. Still, competing for visitor dollars has proven too great even for such a niche resource. Executive Director Michael Luick-Thrams says “It’s been a good run”: over 100,000 people have viewed multi-media exhibits, tens of thousands of small-press books have found their way into homes around the country and abroad, and much thought has been lent to issues germane to a world still very much at war. After reaching millions of people with its narrative Midwest/WWII-history stories, though, TRACES will be streamlining its operations. While the museum will be open to the public for the last time on November 9th, its widely traveled BUS-eum will continue to take mobile exhibits around the Midwest and, per plan, to Germany over the next few years. And, its comprehensive, in-depth web site www.TRACES.org will continue to serve as an educational resource of singular quality. At noon on Thursday, November 6th, Luick-Thrams will offer the public a narrated guided tour of the museum, including commentary both on the stories presented and on how the overall TRACES project has used historical contexts to shed light on contemporary issues of war and peace. Entry to the museum is free that day, sponsored by TRAVELERS as the concluding year-long series “TRAVELERS Free First Thursday at TRACES” made possible by a generous grant. An additional attraction is the recently installed exhibit "Held in the Heartland: German POWs in the Midwest, 1943-46". For details, see www.TRACES.org.

The Traces Bus-seum will continue to fulfill the museum's mission.
Posted by Ben Palosaari at October 30, 2008 3:25 PM

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