Tag Archives: History

A Living History Museum Providing Training for Successful Living in the Future

19 Jan

Living History MuseumDo historical museums bore you? Walking from room-to-room seeing pieces of paper and objects from times long since passed, feeling cold and impersonal. What if a museum were more like theatre? If you could actually meet the people who the possessions belonged to and hear their stories? If this sounds interesting to you, well, I’ve found the perfect place. It’s called the Bremer Geschichtenhaus (Bremer Story House), in Bremen, Germany, and it’s not only a combination of a museum and live theatre, but most of the “employees” are either volunteers, or are found through “bras eV”, an employment and job-training agency (through governmental support) which works with the local government to help the jobless and homeless get back on their feet.

When people file for assistance they’re connected to bras eV which provides a variety of classes, training and life-planning programs. Their methodology for Life/Work Planning is based on “What, Where and How.” The “What” is an analysis of a person’s abilities based on a detailed biography. The “Where” helps them figure out in what industry and which companies they might like to work and be a good fit. And the “How” helps them research which companies have positions which might suit their interests and qualifications as well as understand which skills they need to further develop and how to go about applying successfully.

But where does the Bremer Geschichtenhaus fit in? In its most basic form, it gives employees what’s known as a “1 Euro Job.” While it pays only slightly more than €1, it’s the term used for a low-paying job that’s not meant to be permanent, but a transitional job to gain confidence and skills. And that’s what the Bremer Geschichtenhaus unquestionably does.

I met Herman who has worked there for exactly one-year. His journey began five-years ago when his father died. He was a truck driver and stayed home to take care of his mother. He lived with her until she went to a care facility which is when his brother stopped paying the rent on the rental house they were living in and Herman’s life began falling apart. He ended up homeless for four-months before seeking help at a mission. As is the norm, they housed him for six-months (it allows for people to get their heads together and try to get back on their feet on their own). After six-months his case-worker sent him to the museum. He enjoys what he does as he has interaction with visitors and learns new skills all the time. He plays the part of historical figures of Bremerhaven and likes performing a variety of roles which bring history to life.

I also had the opportunity to meet Silke who’s been working at the Bremer Geschichtenhaus for four months. After losing her job, her apartment and her boyfriend, all within a two-week period, her life also fell apart. She started working at the Bremer Geschichtenhaus in October and found it difficult at first. She felt overwhelmed by the regular schedule and expectations. This is a basic part of the training that the Bremer Geschichtenhaus provides – training people to stick to a regular schedule and be on time for work. It can be difficult when you’ve lost your self-esteem.

The Bremer Geschichtenhaus, which opened in 2006, is the brainchild of business partners Sara and Mick. Prior to opening the Geschichtenhaus, Sara worked in theatre as a director. When she was approached to be a part of the Geschichtenhaus, she thought it was a crazy idea that just might work. She decided to take a chance and join in the project to open a living history museum which could entertain and inform while assisting to help those in need. It was a win/win situation. While Sara handles the performance side, Mick deals with the business side including the partnership with the bras job center. They also employ three other full time people who help run the place.

Coffee MerchantThe shows cover the time period from 1635 until just before WWI. The performers tell the stories of the characters they portray who might be a coffee-maker, for which Bremen is well-known, or Heini Holtenbeen, who walked with a pronounced limp due to an accident. As he could no longer complete his apprenticeship, he made a career out of collecting the discarded stubs of cigars in the market square and selling the tobacco as pipe tobacco. You’ll “meet” the adventurous fish merchant, Fish Lucie, as well as Bremen’s most famous poisoner, Gifts Gottfried. Known as the “Angel of Bremen” she was convicted of poisoning fifteen people using arsenic-laced butter and her execution was the last public one held in the square. The stories are informative and entertaining with a little comedy thrown in. And audience members can actually ask the characters questions about their lives and the times. On Fridays they have shows in English.

The museum receives approximately 30% of its funding through paid admissions and pays 30% of the wages to employees referred through bras, while bras pays the rest.

The Bremer Geschichtenhaus is located in the heart of the Schnoor District of Bremen and welcomes visitors daily. They also have programs for school groups as well as catered private parties. They appreciate volunteers to help with general administrative duties, guest relations, catering and even performing. And they’re grateful for any donations which assist in operating costs such as costuming, laundry, rent and general needs. Please visit their website listed below for all information.

Bremer Geschichtenhaus website: http://www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/

Bremer Geschichtenhaus website (in English): http://translate.google.de/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/&prev=search

To donate or volunteer, please contact: fruchtmann-bras-bremen.de

Are you in Bremen, Germany, and need help getting back on your feet? Contact: http://bras-bremen.de/

Advertisements

Preserving History in St. John’s

24 Feb

Masonic Temple

As I mentioned in the previously, the latest project on Rebel-With-A-Cause is a partnership with Drop Me Anywhere. While Drop Me Anywhere is dedicated to readers participating in choosing where I travel without a plan, it also includes a philanthropic element in which I spend a day, or part of a day, volunteering with a local organization, person or effort and then profile them here. So here’s the first:

Photo from the 1894 laying of the cornerstone

Photo from the 1894 laying of the cornerstone

I’d like to introduce you to Kathie Hicks and Peter Halley, the owners of the Masonic Temple in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The cornerstone of the building was laid on August 23, 1894 with many dignitaries present for the big event. For over 100 years the building housed the secret society of the Free Masons. The Masonic Temple was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in April 1995. Peter and Kathie bought the building on February 14, 2008 with the intent to preserve this preserve it and house the Spirit of Newfoundland Productions which would provide food, entertainment and a general event venue to downtown St. John’s. So far, they’ve succeeded in most of their plan. The Spirit of Newfound Productions hosts wonderful events and dinner-shows for the local community of St. John’s and surrounding communities.

Spirit of Newfoundland Productions

Spirit of Newfoundland Productions

The one thing they’re still working on is the preservation of the building. Peter and Kathie have worked hard on the inside rooms (and there are many of them). Spirit of Newfoundland Productions performs avariety of musical and comedy dinner shows in the downstairs showroom but, once they bring the upstairs up to code, they have plans to move the show upstairs. This part of the renovation will be fully funded by Peter and Kathie and their business.

The outside of the building is another story. While the plan was for the business to pay for all renovations, inside and out, it became clear that the cost of preserving the outside would be prohibitive. At nearly $500,000, they’re hoping for some support. They are currently in the process of developing fundraisers to finance this effort. Planned fundraising opportunities include a series of concerts and the sale of some specially designed memorabilia (possibly key-chains and/or memento boxes).

Masonic Eye in the ceiling

Masonic Eye in the ceiling

In addition, in one of the many hidden rooms they have discovered hidden treasures. Approximately 2,000 original bricks were found in the basement. One of the planned fundraisers is to sell some of these historic bricks. Each weighs nearly five pounds and is over 100 years old. They’ll be mounted and sold individually in person and online. Bricks will be mailed or delivered by courier. There will only be about 1,000 rectangular bricks for sale as the odd-shaped and angular bricks will be used on the building itself.

Entrance to the dungeon

Entrance to the dungeon

Kathie and Peter are passionate about this building and feel it’s important to preserve it and not have it turned into another condominium complex. After touring the inside, I agree. They’re also passionate about Newfoundland as you can see in the song lyrics below. A song they wrote which closes each show at the Masonic Temple.

You can find out more about this historic building here. To find out how you can buy bricks and other fundraising items, or get tickets to concerts and events contact Spirit of Newfoundland.

The Spirit of Newfoundland                                                                                                                                                                              (Written by Peter Halley & Kathie Hicks)

It doesn’t matter where you come from                                                                                                                                                                      It doesn’t matter where you’ve been.                                                                                                                                                                         It’s our spirit and our culture that keeps us all within                                                                                                                                        One big family together that is powered form above,                                                                                                                                            We are rich no matter what we owe                                                                                                                                                                               We have each other’s love                                                                                                                                                                                              We have our rocky shores and mighty seas                                                                                                                                                               Our rolling fog and salt sea breeze                                                                                                                                                                                We are a people proud and strong                                                                                                                                                                          From Newfoundland and Labrador.

%d bloggers like this: