(Im)migrant Communities & Museums

Immigrant and migrant communities might have particular needs and interests in museums, and serving them offers an opportunity to enrich your institution and its relationship to this population. Museums can act as spaces for dialogue, activism and resource-sharing as current events around the world shape migration trends in own hometowns. The resources below can help museum practitioners understand (im)migrant experiences, learn about current events, and identify resources and models for community outreach.

This article from the Guggenheim Blog reviews New York museums of their practices for assessing needs and implementing resources for multilingual visitors. These efforts develop inter-generational educational possibilities within exhibition spaces, in addition to making museums more accessible and welcoming. This article offers:

  • tools and models for identifying community language and literacy needs
  • resources and examples for exhibit and digital media translations, audio tours, and more
  • models for multilingual programming/ arts initiatives, libraries, and staffing
  • Guggenheim Lab and Map Global Art Initiatives resources for multi-language project work plans from pre- to post-stages

This article, “Unaccompanied Children at the Border: Can Museums Help?” from the Center for the Future of Museums blog, recognizes that poorly-resourced detention centers housing unaccompanied and separated children in border states can benefit from museums getting involved in meeting educational and entertainment needs. It also offers museum practitioners ideas for how to collaborate with humanitarian and governmental agencies, share personnel and materials, and foster dialogue through exhibitions and programming.

The Tenement Museum decided to expand its goals and outreach in light of emerging migration trends and new immigrant communities. This article by the museum’s president shows the importance of using nuanced and accurate language in your institution’s mission statement to include (im)migrant communities.

UPenn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology hired Syrian and Iraqi refugees and trained them as tour guides for exhibitions in the Middle Eastern galleries, putting today’s conditions in these regions into conversation with the historical objects.

The Citizenship Project from the New York Historical Society Museum and Library is “a major initiative to help the more than one million legal immigrants in the New York region become American citizens through free civics and American history classes.” In addition to these classes, the project offers family activities, recordings of public talks, and art and history exhibitions- all connected to citizenship and immigrant experiences. A detailed account of a Citizenship Project class activity involving object interpretation can be found in this article from the project’s manager Samantha Rijkers.

Art Space Sanctuary is the primary hub for museums and cultural institutions invested in turning art spaces into sanctuaries for communities of across race, class, status, gender, sexuality, religion, who face policing and deportation. This resources offers a myriad of ways museums and museum practitioners can legally act as a sanctuaries and show solidarity with other sanctuary museums.