Discover the history of immigration from the U.S. to Germany when you walk through the doors of the German-American Heritage Museum. In our effort to highlight the fascinating museums in Washington, D.C, we chatted with Katja Sipple, Executive Director at the German-American Heritage Museum. She’s sharing what makes this museum so special, why you should visit, and what you need to know before you go.
Where is the German-American Heritage Museum located?
Location: German-American Heritage Museum, 719 6th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Is the museum accessible?
What topics does the German-American Heritage Museum cover?
Our museum covers the history of German immigration to the United States, beginning in colonial times. We also highlight the many cultural contributions of German immigrants from the way we celebrate Christmas, our culinary customs (beer and brats), to coffee filters, contact lenses and the credit card chip we use to make daily purchases.
What is your museum’s claim to fame?
We are the proud owners of an early 20th century trophy commissioned by Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I., a 300-pound bust of composer George Frederic Handel. Also, we are the only national museum to document the history of German-speaking immigrants.
This year, we are celebrating our 10th anniversary, and have created a look back at everything we did since our inception, which you can view on gahmusa.org/10-years-gahm.
What is your favorite exhibit or artifact in the museum?
My favorite artifact is a porcelain service from the first class dining room of the SS Europa, a German transatlantic ocean liner built for Norddeutsche Lloyd. The china combines Art Deco elements with a distinct pattern that was once reserved for Bavarian royalty.
What kinds of special exhibits and events do you host throughout the year?
We normally have three different temporary exhibits throughout the year, and our permanent exhibit, which chronicles German-American history starting in 1607.
We have just extended our first-ever art exhibit featuring some 50 original works of the late German-American abstract artist Fritz Faiss. You can learn more about the exhibit at gahmusa.org/from-the-black-forest-to-the-california-desert-the-life-and-work-of-fritz-faiss/.
In addition, we host a number of special events, including film screenings, a beer tasting, guest lectures, book signings, and an annual gala. Our 2020 honoree is former California Governor Jerry Brown.
Are there guided tours available?
Yes, we do offer guided tours, but our museum is small and we have excellent companion materials.
At this point, we do not offer audio tours, but we do have audio materials guests can borrow.
We offer group presentations about German-American immigration history and the museum in general. Prices and contact information are available at gahmusa.org.
How much time should someone plan to spend at the museum?
On average, our visitors spend approximately one hour at the German-American Heritage Museum. However, if you are pressed for time, you can get a good overview in 30 minutes.
What should someone bring with them and what items are not allowed in the museum?
Bring a camera and a friend, because everything is more fun when it’s shared with someone you enjoy. Plus, we have some lovely restaurants nearby, and culture and food go well together.
Is photography allowed inside (without flash)?
Yes, visitors are welcome to take pictures throughout the museum.
What should parents of young children know before visiting the museum?
The museum is not really suitable for very young children, but older children (ages 12+) can benefit from all the information.
What’s the coolest item for sale in the gift shop?
Our German recipe book entitled “The Flour is Different.”
Is there a museum cafe or restaurant?
Unfortunately, there is no cafe, but we do sell a German snack called Knoppers (the letter ‘k’ is pronounced). It’s layers of crispy wavers with hazelnut filling and a milky cream. Yum!
What should teachers planning a field trip know before reaching out to you?
Our seating capacity is limited to 55 visitors. Just give us a call or send us an email to schedule your trip.
What are your normal days and hours of operation?
- Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 5 pm
- Saturday: 11 am to 4 pm
Does the museum have a bag check or coat room?
We do have a coat rack, but there is no designated coat room.
Is there parking available?
Yes, there are commercial parking garages and metered street parking.
Is there an admission fee?
We do have an admission fee for special exhibits. We generally offer at least a 15% discount for seniors and students. You can purchase tickets online, and yes, we do accept credit cards.