Hats off! Perry County Lutheran Historical Society celebrates 100 years with hat exhibit

Saturday, March 6, 2010
Hats Off Exhibit (Photo by Bob Schmidt)

Carla Jordan, director of the Perry County Lutheran Historical Society, says she's not the type of woman who can wear hats -- but she's excited about the society's new exhibit anyway. The exhibit, titled "Hats Off to 100 Years: The Perry County Lutheran Historical Society 1910-2010," opened Feb. 14 and will be on display at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum of Altenburg, Mo., for the next six months. The exhibit has a double meaning, explains Jordan: it offers both a history of hats in Southeast Missouri and a "hats off salute" to the historical society, which was formed 100 years ago, in 1910.

The exhibit features over 100 hats collected by Emma Feiste, Ruth Roth and Lois Pilz, as well as from the museum archives and staff collections. The hats span the late-1800s through the 1960s, ranging from men's felt hats to women's high-fashion hats, from straw hats to Easter bonnets, and even hats for babies and children.

"What excites me is that it's an incredible chronicle of headwear," says Jordan. "It's colorful and there's a lot of texture. It was difficult to put together, actually. The hats all fight together because they're showpieces."

The exhibit also includes photos of people wearing hats, quotes and historic information about hats, and accessories like hat stretchers, pins and pin holders, hat boxes, shoes and gloves.

According to Jordan, the exhibit is the kickoff event for an entire year of celebrating the historical society's 100th birthday. This fall, scholars and students from the United states and Germany will converge on Perry County for its first-ever international immigration conference. Attendees will swap papers, family histories and information about German immigration between 1838 and 1839. The museum will also participate in events like the East Perry County Fair parade.

Hats Off Exhibit (Photo by Bob Schmidt)

"It's not very often that a historical society turns 100 years old. It's one of the older ones in the state, so it's been fun to do that research," says Jordan.

The Perry County Lutheran Historical Society was established in 1910 to preserve and promote the 1839 Log College Seminary, the birthplace of the Concordia Seminaries for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum, built in 2005, focuses on Lutheran immigration from Germany to America, the history of the Lutheran Church in Perry County, and the German-American culture of the region. Though the newly renovated museum now houses a state-of-the-art gift shop, exhibit hall and reception area, Jordan and other museum supporters haven't forgotten the society's humble beginnings. An 1845 church building, which served as the original museum, was part of the museum's new design. The museum still offers tours of the 1845 church and Log College Seminary, as well as the 1867 Trinity Church and Christiane Loeber Cabin.

The Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum, located at 75 Church St. in Altenburg, Mo., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 573-824-6070 or visit www.altenburgmuseum.org.

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