Students take Vonnegut library exhibit to Germany

A traveling exhibit created by Ball State students for Indianapolis’ Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library has garnered the attention of fans of the Hoosier author living abroad.

Members of the group will travel Feb. 6-14 to Germany to present their exhibit in the birthplace of Vonnegut’s ancestors. They will honor the Feb. 13 anniversary of the bombing of Dresden by touring the slaughterhouse where Vonnegut survived the aerial attack as a soldier in World War II. The experience inspired his seminal work, “Slaughterhouse-Five.”

“There is something both eerie and exciting knowing we’ll be standing on the spot where an Indiana hero was transformed,” says English professor Rai Peterson. “We’re hopeful we’ll gain a deeper understanding of Vonnegut’s imagery from the experience.”

Peterson and a team of students will bring the exhibit — equipped with visual displays, interactive iPad kiosks and a digital manuscript archive — with them as they deliver lectures to interested audiences in eastern and western Germany. The exhibit will remain on display at the Dresden Municipal Library while the group travels to University of Münster, a sister school of Ball State. There, they will conduct a workshop for German colleagues on how to teach Vonnegut to German students.

“I want the Germans we meet to be able to share in our pride for Kurt Vonnegut because his German heritage and experiences during World War II shaped him every bit as much as his American Hoosier upbringing,” says Lacey Lord, one of the students participating in the trip.

Peterson and the students first partnered with the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in 2012 for an immersive learning project in which students spent six months learning about Vonnegut and working on a series of projects that enhanced the offerings of the library. These included a digitization of Vonnegut’s manuscripts, creation of a film archive and oral history of the author, a marketing plan, new products for the gift shop and the traveling exhibit.

“This trip is a fitting conclusion to our hard work,” says student Kyle Royse. “Vonnegut is my favorite author. Once you start reading his works, it’s hard not to fall in love with them. Hopefully, what we’re doing will cause a few more people to do the same.”

The group plans to blog their experiences in Germany from abroad. We look forward to seeing where their travels take them!

(Student Kyle Royse works to disassemble the traveling exhibit that the group will be taking with them to Germany. The exhibit will be on display at the Dresden Municipal Library during their visit to the country.Kyle

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