Ellis Island and European Immigration Museums Exhibition Asks Is Immigration Good for Me

. November 19, 2011 . 0 Comments

Is immigration good for my country? Is immigration good for my community? Is immigration good for me? Starting November 17, museum visitors in Belgium, Italy and the United States have the chance to respond to these simple but provocative questions.

Navigating Difference, an interactive installation opening at three immigration-related sites – Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration (New York), Le Bois du Cazier (Charleroi) and Galata Museo del Mare – Mu.MA (Genoa) – invites visitors to respond to these questions and compare their responses to those gathered at every site. The installation launched November 17, 2011 and will remain open through early 2012. The project was coordinated by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and funded by Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad.

Navigating Difference aims to give fresh perspective to today’s debates about immigration and migration taking place in the United States and Europe by doing two things: placing immigration within a historical context by sharing the stories of those who journeyed before, and providing a trans-Atlantic aspect to the immigration debates by allowing visitors to see how people in other countries feel about the same questions.

Developed by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and created by interactive design firm Blue Telescope, the installation features a touch-screen display and simple navigation system that allows users to answer each question and leave comments. They can review the responses of other users and scroll through comments. Responses in other languages will be translated to the home museum’s core language (English, French, or Italian).

But the installation is the jump-off point for more. Each museum also hosts community dialogues bringing together groups of people with differing perspectives on immigration to delve into why people immigrated then and now, and what their experiences can entail. The goal? To help visitors navigate the complexities of migration and inspire more informed public discourse about immigration today.

“Where are the public spaces for people today to talk openly and productively about immigration?” asks Elizabeth Silkes, Executive Director of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a global network of museums that use history to inspire civic action today. “Sites like ours are today’s new civic spaces because they use the past to invite reflection on the present, which enables a richer conversation – and hopefully, inspires constructive action.”

Category: Exhibition News