Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Celebrating the romance of history

Jonas Vangas has been credited with the founding of the Lithuanian Museum, but as well he established the Lobethal Museum. He was the son of a former Lithuanian Director of Railways. During WWII Vanagas left Lithuanian making his way to Copenhagen where he worked as a book binder. With his wife and young son he immigrated to Australia in 1949. Vanagas settled in Lobethal where he worked as a shift worker in the local woolen mill. Lobethal meaning Valley of Praise was settled by Silesian Germans in 1842 about not far from Adelaide. Vanagas was able to speak German which helped him accumulate information from the towns inhabitants, many of whom still spoke German. His work culminated into a book Lobethal 1842 - 1954 an Historical Study. This book was never published, the original is held in Lobethal, a copy is in the State Library and a second copy was sent to Kent State University Library, Ohio, USA.

While researching for this book, Vanagas also collected artifacts and documents. With the support of the local doctor C.C Jungfer they arranged for the collection to be displayed in the Lobethal Institute which was opened to the public. The Lobethal Archives and Historical Museum was opened on the 6th of May 1956. Plans were made to construct a separate building to house the collection, on the grounds of the St. John's Lutheran College. On October 22nd 1961 the Premier of S.A, Sir Thomas Playford and the Minister of Immigration Mr A.R Downer were present for the official opening.

The Lobethal Museum has been given special attention because it was South Australian first local history museum.

Vanagas also had a passion for history which was described by Colin Thiele “Jonas Vanagas is one of those who feels the romance of history, its magic, majesty and beauty: all documents make him excited, historical places are breathing with life, stones are writing history, graves are talking and the dead are living".

The work of Jonas Vanagas became a model of inspiration for other communities interested in preserving their past.

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