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These Museums Helped Welcome Immigrants and Refugees to their Community, and Yours Can Too!

Category: Alliance Blog
Facade of the Levine Museum of the New South
Photo credit: James Willamon on Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0

Welcoming America’s annual Welcoming Week enlists organizations around the country to welcome new immigrants and refugees into their new communities. This year, AAM is a national partner of Welcoming Week and is calling on museums to get involved on September 10 to 19. Use your spaces and resources to unite your community and show that not only are we stronger together, but the future depends on our unity!

For inspiration, look no further than the museums below, which are all past or future Welcoming Week participants. From hosting multicultural entertainments to leading a Twitter chat on inclusivity, they’ve found creative ways to do what museums do best in service of this important cause.

Ready to get involved? See this link for a toolkit on hosting an event, and print one of our special signs below to display at your museum.

A printable sign that says "[Blank] Welcomes You" with the logos of AAM and Welcoming Week underneath.


Printable sign that says "AAMers are welcomers!"

Anchorage Museum

The facade of the Anchorage Museum, with lawn space visible.
Photo credit: Craig Talbert on Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY 2.0

The Anchorage Museum in Alaska has been participating in Welcoming Week for several years running, and in 2019 graduated to presenting the main community celebration for the event. For that year’s program, the museum hosted cultural performances, a resource fair with community organizations, and speeches from community leaders on its front lawn, while inside the building attendees could join docent tours in Spanish, Mandarin, and English.

Adam Baldwin, the Anchorage Museum’s Chief Programs Officer, says museums are ideal hosts for Welcoming Week events for “many reasons”:

“Many people don’t feel like they are innately ‘museum people’ for whatever reason and therefore are less likely to come to the museum. Whatever we can do to make explicit the message that you are welcome to come to your community’s museum, [we] should do so.”

Queens Museum

Facade of Queens Museum with great lawn space visible
Photo credit: Leo Chiou on Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0

The Queens Museum in New York City used its Great Lawn to host a kickoff party for 2017’s Welcoming Week, in partnership with the YMCA of Greater New York.

The program included multicultural music, dance, and artmaking experiences aimed to build bridges between communities.

Hennepin History Museum

Photo credit: McGhiever on Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0

The Hennepin History Museum in Minneapolis hosted a panel discussion with members of the city’s Somali community featured in an exhibition at the museum called Being Human: Stories from Humans of Minneapolis. The speakers discussed their lived experiences as Somali people, with the goal to foster understanding and awareness between people in the Minneapolis community.

San José Museum of Art

A view of the facade of the San Jose Museum of Art

Together with the city’s Office of Racial Equity, this year the San José Museum of Art will present “The Heartbeat of San José: Immigrants During COVID-19,” an online program featuring the first-person pandemic stories of essential workers from the city’s immigrant communities.

Museum of History and Holocaust Education

An aerial photograph of a college campus
Photo credit: Stephen Rahn on Flickr.

In 2020, Kennesaw State University’s Museum of History and Holocaust Education partnered with CivicGeorgia to present, “Refuge or Refusal: A Conversation about Turning Points in U.S. Immigration History.” The virtual program began with a review of key moments in the history of immigration and citizenship policy in the United States, then sent participants to breakout rooms for facilitated discussions on themes from that history, including:

  • Citizenship and Civil Rights: Documentation, Status, and Protection Under the Law
  • Intersecting Identities: Race, Migration, and National Narrative
  • Creating Community: Refugee Resettlement and Immigrant Empowerment
  • Making Change: Affecting Policy Through Civic Engagement
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