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NDSU employees donate heirlooms to NDSU Libraries collection

Published: 25 August 2011

Laura Oster-Aaland, director of orientation and student success, and Carmen Rath-Wald, Logan County Extension agent, recently made archival donations to the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection to preserve and promote their family culture and heritage.

Oster-Aaland, a Hazen, N.D., native, donated her grandmother’s family textiles and clothing items, handmade fabric dolls, historic photographs and audio interviews of her grandmother, Martha (Pfenning) Heihn. 

Oster-Aaland shared, “The day I took the items to the GRHC for the staff to look at, I was honored by the appreciation they showed for my family heirlooms,” Oster-Aaland said..  “They were incredibly knowledgeable and I knew that these heirlooms would be in good hands, with people who understood their cultural significance … the GRHC is a treasure and I am proud that it has a home at NDSU.”Rath-Wald, a Wishek, N.D., native, donated many family baptismal, confirmation and wedding certificates, hymnals and a German-Russian shawl relating to her Hauck and Rath family roots.

Rath-Wald donated to the collection for two reasons. “It is important for me to honor my ancestors by keeping their stories alive, and I think it is important for my children and grandchildren to learn about their ancestors to help them be grounded in the current hectic, impersonal world,” she said. “As educators we have a responsibility to future generations to preserve history, and the GRHC is a credible, respectful and respected organization that will help us in our efforts.”

Donations such as historic photographs, family documents, letters, certificates, textiles and clothing continue to support the unique culture of the Germans from Russia in North Dakota and the Northern Plains. The Germans from Russia started settling the Dakotas in the 1870s and have grown to become one of the largest ethnic groups in North Dakota. In addition to archival donations, the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is one of the major collections of German-Russian scholarly resources in the world. To date, the collection has 12,000 cataloged books and media on the subject of Germans from Russia.

To learn more about the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection or to donate, go to or visit room 114 in the Main Library.  

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North Dakota State University
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Last Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013