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Courtesy of Hermann Farm & Museum, Dierberg Educational Foundation
Hermann Museum and Farm
The Hermann Museum and Farm is currently in development and will be a 160-plus-acre farm.
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By W. Arthur Mehrhoff
Heritage tourism sites and activities like those of Hermann Farm and Museum are really a form of museum education (my own field), so I know very well that education in any form is always a gamble of sorts among generations.
But why try to educate people about the past in the face of relentless modernization and globalization?
I recently had the opportunity to talk at length with placemaker Jim Dierberg and members of his staff at the Hermann Farm and Museum.
Both Jim and I had been heavily involved in historic preservation efforts starting back in the ’70s, when he first began restoring the Hermannhof winery. He said he had always been intrigued by the river, hills, and unique landscape of central Missouri and fascinated by the region’s history that is layered upon its unique geography such as local cultural heroes George Husmann (a pioneer of Missouri wine), Union war hero Charles Manwaring, and the heritage farm of the Kallmeyer family.
Deeply influenced by his experiences of living history farms in Germany, Jim Dierberg became convinced of the vital importance for stewardship of place and heritage.
Hermann Farm and Museum, the material expression of that placemaking ethic, consists of five distinct farming areas. These areas include a model vineyard and winery; a livestock farm; stables, wagon works, a forge and a heritage garden; historic houses, and the Hofgarten hosting arts, music, and other cultural activities.
Each season of the year offers ample opportunities for living history and an exploration into how nineteenth century rural Missourians lived, worked, and interacted with the land. The gamble for Hermann Farm and Museum is that mobile, mediated modern Americans really want to make those connections with their heritage.
Some of us obviously do.
I first began exploring central Missouri back in the ’70s while working in urban design and historic preservation, then developed a strong research interest in its material culture (eg, Pelster housebarn) while working on my doctorate in American culture studies at Saint Louis University.
The capstone of my research took place in a July, 1986 lecture at the venerable University of Tübingen (in Tübingen, Germany) about this unique cultural region to highly interested and motivated German students of American culture.
The challenge today is how to interpret this American heirloom to our laissez faire selves.
Every community engaged in heritage tourism, such as Hermann, has to answer two basic questions: why is this place special and why is it important?
Most people would likely agree that Deutscheim is certainly special, but maybe the concept of an American heirloom could help Hermann Farm and Museum answer the second question.
I have had the privilege, blessing, really, of hearing world-renowned biologists E.O. Wilson and Peter Raven lecture at the University of Missouri. Both spoke passionately and urgently about climate change, loss of biodiversity, and the need to better care for the land. That’s where Hermann Farm and Museum takes its rightful place: as a cultural SeedSavers Exchange promoting deep attachment to place and a land stewardship ethic that we desperately need today.
A Post-Dispatch book review from October 18, 2013, entitled “We really like us!,” cited a positive trend in a number of recent books that explore and celebrate the unique heritage of the St. Louis region.
Jim Dierberg and his staff at the Hermann Farm and Museum are betting the farm that’s true.