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Construction under way to modernize Minden's Germantown Colony Museum

The historical gem of Minden, La. -- the Germantown Colony Museum -- is getting a second life with a new visitor’s center under construction. The new building will showcase the German settlers who established a commune in north Louisiana in the early 1800s in a quest to avoid religious persecution.

There are more than 275 artifacts in the Germantown Colony, and three buildings still stand today. Over the past five years, Webster Parish has worked with state lawmakers to secure funding and bring the fledgling museum under the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Lynn Dorsey, executive director of the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the museum's preservation is long overdue considering that artifacts have long been exposed to the Louisiana climate.

"This is a really significant project because it will be over 2,000 square feet that will include an exhibit gallery, which will display historical artifacts that we had removed and taken to the state archives in Baton Rouge to be preserved and protected until we could get a climate-controlled environment," Dorsey said.

The museum is closed during the six-month construction project. In 2008, now retired state representative Jean Doerge worked to get state funding for the Germantown Colony Museum, the last one added to the the state's museum system. Doerge said descendants of Germantown raised additional funds to preserve the colony that was known for raising silkworms to weave silk, and for its advanced engineering techniques.

"They lived here for 37 years in what they called a Utopia colony. Then they finally dispersed in 1871," Doerge said.

Dorsey said the visitor’s center project cost $424,000. It’s now featured on the National Geographic Maps website.