Miller Works to Preserve North Dakota's German-Russian Heritage

Tomlinson, Kelly. "Miller Works to Preserve North Dakota's German-Russian Heritage." Spectrum, 19 January 1996.

For Michael Miller, the preservation of one's heritage is extremely important. Miller is SU's Germans from Russia Bibliographer. Among his responsibilities is the coordination of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection and its exhibitions.

"It takes a lot of research and photo searching," Miller said.

The most recent Germans from Russia exhibit, "The Kempf Family: Germans on the Dakota Plains," is an example of the hard work it takes to put together such an exhibition.

"This is a major exhibit," Miller said. "It has 14 panels. It takes a lot of planning and coordination just to decide where it will go in the future."

The problem with the exhibit is its size. Since many of the German-Russian communities in North Dakota are smaller towns, there is not always an adequate place to display the exhibit.

"For example, a town the size of Oakes, N.D., is not set up for galleries. In Oakes, the bank will host the exhibit," Miller said.

According to Miller, the most important thing is that the exhibit reaches the German-Russian towns in North Dakota. Miller hopes that such an exhibit will show people the importance of preserving their heritage.

"The importance of the exhibit," Miller said, "Is how one family has completed detailed research about its culture and heritage. We can only put exhibits together with the help of families that have saved photos."

When creating exhibits, Miller considers many things.

"The Key element," Miller said, "is the audience that is going to view the exhibit. From experience we have learned that large photos and minimal text works best."

When he is not working on the exhibits, Miller is doing work in preparation for this summer's Journey to the Homeland: German and Ukraine tours.

Miller will travel to Germany and the Ukraine this summer with North Dakotans of Germans from Russia descent.

"I hope it will give people the opportunity to step on the soil and visit the villages where their grandparents lived," Miller said. "It should also help these people to come back and present public programs with the photos they have taken."

Miller believes that these people will be ambassadors for future visits to Germany and the Ukraine. One of the most important goals he has set for these trips is a personal one.

"I had a personal interest," Miller said. "I wanted to visit these villages where my grandparents lived in South Russia. Many others wanted to visit these villages. I hope that through these trips more people will be able to develop their own family histories."

Michael Miller, SU's Germans from Russia bibliographer, stands with Antonia (Welk) Ivanova in the village of Limanskoe near Odessa, Ukraine in December. Antonia is a relative of the late bandleader Lawrence Welk. A Ukrainian woman brings home wood for heat near the former German Village of Glueckstal, Republic of Trans-Dniester, Moldova. Photo by Michael M. Miller
Women in village of Novosamarka (former German village of Sofiental) near Odessa, Ukraine, husking corn, 17 December 1995. Photo by Michael M. Miller  

Reprinted with permission of the Spectrum.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller