A German American Space at Gallery Place


The Gallery Pl-Chinatown Metro station is at the crossroads and the center of a million things, including several museums.  Within blocks of the three exits are the following museums and historic sites: the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, the International Spy Museum, and the German-American Heritage Museum, which I have never properly written about. (The now-closed National Museum of Crime and Punishment was also in this vicinity.)

I visited the German-American Heritage Museum (GAHM) in 2011 as a Weekly Museum Visit. Last year, I also visited the Goethe Institut (another cultural institution dedicated to German heritage) at its Chinatown location, before it moved to a different address in DC. Goethe Institut’s website lists GAHM’s building, Hockemeyer Hall, as one of many buildings in DC with ties to the German American community. Most of these buildings are located near the Gallery Place Metro, a booming part of DC today (I’ve heard a rumor that 7th Street is trying to be DC’s version of Times Square) with a diverse history, including a prominent population of German immigrants in the early 1900s, before it was known as Chinatown after an influx of the Chinese American community in the 1930s.

German-American Heritage Museum, as photographed in 2011. Dirndl, wall text, bust, pictures on the wall, benches to sit on, musical notes painted on the wall

German-American Heritage Museum, as photographed in 2011

GAHM is a small space with objects on display, text panels, an area set up for lectures with a podium and rows of chairs, and a staircase adorned with the names and pictures of famous German Americans. Among the objects and images I saw back in 2011:

  • An installation made of books written by German authors about the United States. (The literary theme of German American history is also evident in nearby Martin Luther King Memorial Library, designed by German American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe).
  • A cartoon depiction of Albert Einstein. (Artistic allegories for science and understanding the physical world are present as well on the Old Patent Office Building, now housing the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, by architect Adolf Cluss and sculptors Adolph Weinman and Caspar Buberl.)
  • A small exhibit about German music. (The Washington Saengerbund, started in 1851 and making use of a couple of DC locations, attests to the importance of music to the German American community in DC.)

Happy Oktoberfest!

Gallery Pl-Chinatown is on the Red, Yellow, and Green lines.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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