Group pursues museum on Latvian diaspora

Work on a new museum documenting the life of Latvians in the diaspora is well underway. Formed in September 2007, the association Latvians Abroad – Museum and Research Centre (Latvieši pasaulē – muzejs un petniecibas centrs) has now hired an office manager and has launched a Web site.

Under the leadership of Maija Hinkle, the association was founded by a group of Latvians in the U.S., Canada and Latvia. The group is pursuing several projects, including finding a location for a permanent museum, according to a Dec. 10 press release and the Web site.

The Web site,, informs visitors about the mission of the museum and research centre, which is the preservation and interpretation of diaspora Latvian history over the past 200 years. The envisaged programs and activities aim to build bridges between Latvians living in Latvia and diaspora Latvians, and between Latvia and the various other countries in which Latvians reside.

Marianna Auliciema, a Latvian from Canada and Australia who now lives in Rīga, has been hired as the association’s office manager. She also is a member of the association’s board of directors. (Latvians Online Editor Andris Straumanis, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, is a consultant to the museum and research centre.)

One of the projects being developed is a travelling exhibition that will display a suitcase owned by Albins Simsons. The approximately 100-year-old suitcase has “seen” both the East and West. It was brought to Latvia in 1921 by 22-year-old Simsons, who was returning to his home in Bauska, having lived in Ukraine as a refugee after World War I. Twenty-four years later the suitcase continued its journey, this time to the West, when the Simsons family fled to Germany in 1945 and later moved to the United States in 1951.

The second focus of the exhibition will be a weaving loom, made out of scrap wood in Germany, taken to Australia by a Latvian weaver and donated to Museum Victoria as part of a display in the Melbourne Immigration Museum.

A further exhibition, planned to be completed over a period of three years, will be a DVD of the previous exhibition materials titled “Latvian Tracks Over the World: A Suitcase Exhibition on DVD.”

The association is actively seeking a location for a permanent museum. Various potential locations have been assessed, but a decision regarding the location is still to be made. In the meantime the association is keen to accept documents, photographs, material culture, video and audio recordings and other archival material that could be donated to the collection. The association is also glad to accept new members and supporters as well as other forms of assistance, including the founding of support groups abroad. For more information, contact Auliciema via e-mail at

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

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