On March 25 and 26, the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC), in partnership with the Arab American National Museum and Alwan for the Arts, hosts DIWAN: A Forum for the Arts.
Events will be taking place at CUNY’s Graduate Center here in New York. They include a wide range of discussions, forums and performances about Arab American art and heritage.
The Arab American National Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan, is one of the International Coalition’s member sites.
To learn more, download a PDF of the full event schedule.
January 2011 kicked off Navigating Difference, a joint initiative of three Sites of Conscience that remember aspects of immigration history: Ellis Island National Monument, Le Bois du Cazier (a site where immigrant miners lost their lives in Belgium), and Mu.MA (a maritime museum, remembering Italian emigration to the US and elsewhere), facilitated by the International Coalition.
Navigating Difference seeks to explore, compare, and discuss what museum visitors in New York City, Belgium, and Italy think about immigration – past and present – in their communities. Through an interactive installation, set up simultaneously at all three sites in March 2011, visitors will answer a common question about immigration, then see how their peers abroad have responded. Jumping off from the question posed by the installation, each participating Site of Conscience will also host community-focused dialogues where students will talk about how immigration has impacted their lives today.
Exhibit planning began January 25 – 28 at Ellis Island in New York, where site directors met to discuss immigration history and policy, best practices for dialogue facilitation, and project evaluation.
This project is supported by funding from Museums and Community Collaborations Abroad, a program of the American Association of Museums. (http://www.aam-us.org/mcca/About.cfm)
On December, 17, 2010, el Museo de la Memoria de Rosario (Museum of Memory in Rosario) in Argentina opened the historic site that houses the museum.
The opening of the museum is the culmination of more than a decade of advocacy by human rights organizations to memorialize this historic site and open it to the public as a center of learning about Argentina’s military dictatorships and their legacies today.
The house, built in the 1940s, was occupied by the Army Second Command during Argentina’s last military dictatorship (1976-1983). It became the headquarters for military operations that terrorized the citizens of Rosario and the administrative base for formulating policies of persecution and extermination in the city and six central and coastal provinces. But it also became a symbol of people’s perseverance: hundreds of family members and spouses would line up outside the doors of the Command to appeal for information about the disappearance of their loved ones.
In a recent article, Rueben Chababo, director of the Museum, asserts that the power of the site will be tapped to “interpret clusters of themes that evoke the dictatorship and the human condition.”
On guided tours of sites associated with state terrorism, el Museo de la Memoria de Rosario encourages visitors to reflect on their conceptions of that historic period. The Museum also coordinates annual conferences for teachers and education professionals, providing classroom tools that share the history and significance of the dictatorship in Argentine society.
“…I am proud to be able to have a place where young people who did not experience the dictatorship have the opportunity to learn what happened during this time. And that there is a physical place where we are respected and can tell our stories. In this way, those who were not there can gain a better understanding of the situation and make sure that it will not be repeated. With these efforts we give people a consciousness of what happened and why it is so important to have democratic and not authoritarian values.”
– Maurice Politi, Founding Member, Núcleo de Preservação da Memória Política, São Paulo
A Coalition member since 2009, Núcleo de Preservação da Memória Política or the Center for the Preservation of the Political Memory in São Paulo is dedicated to promoting public policies on memory of the Brazilian dictatorship, fostering human rights, and developing related educational activities. A founding member of the Center, Maurice Politi was detained for four years during the dictatorship starting in 1970.
Since 2008, members of the Center have engaged in a unique partnership with the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, lead by Director Marcelo Araujo, to create the Memorial da Resistência de São Paulo or the Memorial of the Resistance of São Paulo which is the only site in Brazil open to the public that is dedicated to preserving the history of the military dictatorship, during which tens of thousands were detained, tortured and/or subjected to political persecution. The Memorial recreates a State prison where thousands were detained, tortured and sentenced during this period. Since its launch in January 2009, the Memorial has welcomed over 150,000 visitors and has become the sixth-most-visited museum in São Paulo City.
Katia Felipini, Coordinator of the Memorial da Resistência de São Paulo; Becarita Roa and Vera Jawach, survivors of the dictatorship; and Marcelo Araujo, Director of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.
Said Coordinator of the Memorial, Kátia Regina Filipini Neves, “We joined the Coalition because we identify with the ideals of the Coalition. We also joined because we have much to gain from learning more about the concepts and methodologies used by different Coalition members. At the end all of these methodologies can help the work that we do here in Brazil.”
In November 2010, the Coalition held its First International Meeting in Brazil to highlight and support the work of its Brazilian members. This meeting brought together leading figures in the transitional justice movement in Brazil including representatives from the Ministry of Justice Amnesty Commission, the National Archive, scholars, and human rights advocates with international Coalition leaders and Brazilian members to consider the current state of memory work in Brazil.
“Thanks to Monte Sole I am more open with other people, I say what I think, I appreciate more friendship and solidarity with other people and I reject any kind of prejudice….I remember this experience as an important encouragement to do my best in anything I do and to be always informed about current events.”
– Student who visited Monte Sole Peace School
In 2010, research by the SWG research institute presented to Italy’s lower house of Parliament found that nearly half of Italians between the ages 18 and 29 express varying degrees of xenophobic or racist sentiments. At a time of rising concern over migration, xenophobia, and discrimination throughout Europe, the Peace School Foundation for Monte Sole uses the site where in 1944, Nazi troops and Italian Fascists killed 700 people, mostly women and children, as part of a terror campaign to suppress partisan resistance, to engage young people in dialogue and action on today’s issues including xenophobia, citizenship, racist violence and bullying.
Sites of Conscience programs at Monte Sole focus on human rights education, conflict resolution, and analyzing propaganda, such as comparing Nazi and Fascist propaganda with present-day cases. Students are challenged to think critically about why violence takes place, under what circumstances people could be driven to violence, and how to avoid violent behavior.
“Before teaching here, I taught in a school with many cultural conflicts, because the solid presence of cultural diversity in the classes: that’s why we decided that Monte Sole must be a constant stop during the scholastic year. The topics are very contemporary and the other strong point is the place…these places speak for themselves.”
- Teacher who visited Monte Sole Peace School
A study of Sites of Conscience youth programs around the world including the Monte Sole Peace School was recently published in the International Journal of Transitional Justice. It found that these programs have a direct impact on participants and help young people to change their opinions, heighten awareness of the issues addressed at the sites, improve relationships between students, build commitment to civic engagement, and increase emotional understanding of the human consequences of atrocity.
Russia is facing an ongoing struggle about how to remember its Stalinist past. In 2009, President Medvedev publicly condemned Stalin’s rule, but a recent poll showed that 25% of Russian adults would vote for Stalin if he were alive and running for president.
Where – and how –can Russians learn about the past and understand its legacies today?
The GULAG Museum at Perm-36, the only Stalinist labor camp in Russia to be preserved as a museum, is one such place. The museum is currently engaged in a groundbreaking effort to tap the potential of more than 4,000 municipal museums across Russia to share local histories of political repression and help visitors connect with issues of democracy in the “new Russia.” The GULAG Museum’s Summer School of Museology (SSM) provides staff at these museums with training and technical assistance in developing exhibition and educational programs specifically designed to help local audiences explore the nation’s history of political repression and consider how they can foster human rights and ensure a more democratic future.
In 2010, the Gulag Museum hosted two SSM sessions,that provided over 40 participants from sites in Perm Krai, Krasnoyarsk Krai, and Kirov Oblast’ with opportunities to learn from each other and develop new programs to actively engage their visitors in thinking critically about the past and in considering how they might shape the future.
“The activities of the School of Museology … made me foremost reconsider my understanding of a museum’s purpose: what is a museum for? Finding the answer to this question is very important to me and there is a lot of work ahead of me in order to find it. I’m very thankful to you for making me think critically.”
– Yevgeniya Mal’kova, Educator, Shushenskoye Historical Museum and Nature Preserve
In the late 19th century, thousands of Native American and First Nation children across the U.S and Canada were forcibly sent far from their homes to live in boarding and residential schools specifically designed to assimilate them. The residential school experiences are extraordinarily diverse, embodying cultural loss and victimization for some and cultural persistence and opportunity for others.
Over the course of several months in 2010, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission traveled the country to collect and document residential schools experiences. But while Canada is taking significant steps to confront this past, the boarding school history in the United Sates remains invisible to many.
The International Coalition’s Indian Boarding and Residential Schools Project, Ottawa-based Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF), and former boarding schools are joining forces to shed light on the experiences on both sides of the border.
Together they are designing a traveling version of Where are the Children?, LHF’s popular photo exhibition that shares the story of the thousands of Native children in Canada forcibly sent to residential schools during the 19th and 20th centuries. Traveling to boarding school sites across the U.S. and Canada, the exhibit will invite community members to share stories and images from their own experiences.
The Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, one of Krakow’s main cultural institutions devoted to remembering life in Krakow under the Nazi occupation, hosted the Gestapo Victims Remembrance Day on September 10-11, 2010.
Since 2007, this annual event has commemorated Krakow’s victims of the secret police in Nazi Germany, the Gestapo.
The Historical Museum of the City of Krakow is the institutional umbrella of three historic sites that aim to tell a complete and integrated story of Krakow during World War II: The Eagle Pharmacy, the meeting point for the Jewish intelligentsia during the occupation; the Silesian House on Pomorska Street which served as a Gestapo headquarters and torture center; and the recently opened Schindler’s Factory Museum, where Oskar Schindler saved more than a thousand Jewish people from deportation.
The Gestapo Victims Remembrance Day took place at the Silesian House, where all generations were invited to discuss the history of Krakow and the questions that history raises about intolerance and racism today. Exhibitions and re-enactments demonstrated the challenges of life in Krakow more than 60 years ago; role-playing games invited youth to “follow the steps” of their counterparts during the Nazi occupation; and discussion panels, workshops and a movie-marathon drew parallels between past and present human rights violations.
With Gestapo Victims Remembrance Day, the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow aims not only to commemorate the past, but also to preserve Krakow’s collective memory and use its history to open discussion and inspire participants to create a different future, one of peace and tolerance.
More then 2000 students and 100 teachers have joined the Jamalpur Gandhi Ashram & Freedom Struggle Museum’s efforts to promote inter-religious harmony and tolerance through a new dialogue program called “We Can’t Change Our Neighbors”.
The Ashram remembers the history of Bangladesh’s independence movement and the country’s human rights struggles as an avenue to discuss peace and non-violence today. Their new program recognizes the diversity of religions and ethnicities in Bangladesh, which historically, and more recently, have been a source of tension and conflict, and aims to address misunderstanding and intolerance among different religious communities and ethnic groups, through dialogue.
“We can’t change our neighbors,” organized at high schools and colleges across the region, invited students to participate in variety of ways: some schools organized panel discussions on rising fanaticism and fundamentalism, while at other schools poster and photo exhibitions provided a backdrop to discussions between students, teachers and management staff about different ways to strengthen tolerance in Bangladesh’s multi-religious society.
The posters and photos presented the history of the Liberation War and expressed different views on and experiences with Bangladesh’s religious and ethnic diversity. Students also participated in quizzes and essay competitions where they addressed questions such as “How can I promote religious harmony and tolerance in our society?”.
The Ashram has hosted the program with six schools in the region over the last month; with students and teachers demanding more of these programs, the Ashram is is hoping to expand its programming to other schools in the region.
Yesterday the process we went through served as a wake-up call emotionally as I was able to reflect on the healing process in my life and Liberia as a nation.
- Francis Greaves, Liberian participant in the body-mapping workshop reflecting on the experience
In April 2010, Liberian civil society organizations, Civic Initiative and Liberia Media Center, with the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and the Human Rights Media Center (S. Africa) launched a pioneering initiative to “WITNESS – REMEMBER – CREATE” personal and public histories of Liberia’s recent conflict. Using the “body-mapping” technique where participants use life-size images of human bodies to illustrate their painful histories and to reflect on how they see themselves, Liberians across generations and genders began memorializing the country’s 14-year civil war.
The program opened with a traveling version of Breaking the Silence: A Luta Continua, the award-winning exhibit of drawings, paintings, body-maps, photographs, memory cloths, etc. created by survivors of Apartheid. The exhibit depicts the oppression of black South Africans during Apartheid, their struggle for justice and finally, their transition to a “new” South Africa where they continue to face new challenges.
Against the backdrop of this exhibit, Liberians from different communities – such as widows and amputees from the war as well as those who were children (aged 1-5) during the conflict – came together to share their diverse experiences of the war and create a visual public record through each of their stories, depicted by individual body-maps. These body-maps and artwork created by the Liberians were added to the Breaking the Silence Breaking the Silence exhibit in a section the Liberians titled Breaking the Silence: The Liberian Story Begins.
The project was hailed by former Truth Commissioners and the media as a critical first step in implementing the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation for memorialization. As Jonathan Paye-Layleh, a reporter for the BBC said,“… if what started as an exhibition on campus at the University of Liberia is nationalized it will certainly go a long way in fulfilling a key recommendation in the TRC report.” (Listen to the entire report here.)
Building from this success, civil society groups in Sierra Leone and Kenya are now developing projects using body-mapping as a way to engage people in dialogue and sharing with the goal of creating public memories of painful chapters of history.
Between March 1st and 6th 2010, the Liberation War Museum (Bangladesh) and the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram (India) hosted its annual Youth Camp on Peace and Tolerance to promote human rights and democratic values.
Participants from across South and Southeast Asia, including Korea, China, Philippines, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, gathered to reflect on peace, tolerance, democracy, and their meanings today.
The camp included eleven lecture sessions where prominent peace workers and followers of Mahatma Gandhi discussed the significance of peace and tolerance in the various social settings of the countries represented. Participants were acquainted with the concept of nonviolence and the work and philosophy of Gandhi. They engaged in discussions on contemporary ethnic, religious, and socio-political conflicts within and between their nations. Participants were also encouraged to design programs for using historic sites or memory work to inspire similar conversations in their own social environments.
The Youth Camp emphasized team spirit and fraternity encouraging people from different races, religions, colors, and ethnicities to engage in dialogue, collaborate as a team and learn from each other. At the end of the camp, the participants were asked to put forward their views regarding the road to peace and tolerance. Peace education in school text books and a UN force without arms (for interventions when peace is threatened) were some of the various suggestion they believed would benefit the ongoing process of democracy building.
Over 10,000 people, including some 3,000 students, witnessed the ceremonial laying of the first foundation stone for a new Freedom Struggle Museum at the Victory Day celebrations hosted by the Jamalpur Gandhi Ashram (the Ashram).
The Ashram represents Bangladesh’s long anti-colonial struggle in the 20th century. Dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence and non-cooperation movement, the site is marked by a history of resistance and now works to promote ideals of peace, non-violence and tolerance. With the annual Victory Day celebration, marking the end of the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Ashram aims to commemorate the history of struggle in Bangladesh and inspire younger generations to promote tolerance and equality.
At the December 23, 2009 event, the Ashram organized a photo exhibition on the Bangladeshi struggle for freedom and facilitated dialogues on the legacies of the Liberation War. The Jamalpur Gandhi Ashram also used the occasion to launch the construction of the new Freedom Struggle Museum. The museum will be built on the site of the Ashram and will carry on its mission to increase local investment by engaging the community in dialogue on the history of the independence movement in Bangladesh as well as the country’s human rights struggles today.
‘What does Free Derry Wall mean to you?’ When the Museum of the Free Derry invited the general public to react to this open-ended question, the responses were varied and came from local residents, politicians, artists, activists, national figures and visitors to the city.
Free Derry Wall refers to the wall in the city of Derry where the words ‘You Are Now Entering Free Derry’ were first handwritten in January 1969. This location became a focal point for many tumultuous events related to the conflict in N. Ireland. To some, the Wall is a symbol of freedom, a national monument, political icon, war memorial, community notice board, or a public sculpture. To others, it is an anachronism, contested space, a vehicle for propaganda, a spent force, clichéd tourist attraction, or a meaningless entity of bricks, mortar and paint.
In Free Derry Wall, a book published on the site’s 40th anniversary in 2009, the Museum of Free Derry showcases these varied perspectives and experiences, collected over the past 10 years. The book reflects what has been going on around the Wall and the world over time, and explores and debates the many meanings the Wall held and still holds today.
In June 2009, the Liberian National Reconciliation Conference issued the Virginia Declaration – 38 recommendations for “a way forward to a new Liberia” – to be considered in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, tackling issues of justice, accountability and reconciliation in Liberia’s post-conflict society.
Top of the list of recommendations was the need to memorialize victims at sites of massacre. Coalition members Civic Initiative (CI) and Liberia Media Center (LMC) worked with the Secretariat for more than a year to pull together Liberians’ vision for memorialization.
First, CI, LMC and the Coalition organized a series of community consultations to identify potential Sites of Conscience – such as the Maher Bridge, where in 2002, hundreds of civilians were lured with promises of food and supplies and then drowned – as spaces for healing and peace-building. Next, the Coalition and Civic Initiative (CI) facilitated sessions at the Liberian National Reconciliation Conference, where perpetrators and victims came together to discuss what should be remembered from the recent conflict and how places of memory could support reconciliation efforts.
Drawing from the extensive experience of Sites of Conscience in using places of memory to promote democracy around the world, the Coalition provided models and best practices and presented the suggestions that emerged from the community consultations and the National Reconciliation Conference to the TRC.
The sum of the community consultations and the Virginia Declaration demonstrate the growing political acknowledgment of memorialization as a vital part of peace-building and reconciliation.
The Arab American National Museum’s new interactive exhibit Connecting Communities uses metropolitan Detroit as a microcosm of American immigration. It offers immigrants the opportunity to tell their own stories and allows visitors to share thoughts and experiences.
As the immigrant population in Detroit dramatically increases, so do the stereotypes and misconceptions about the city’s newest citizens. With Connecting Communities, the Arab American National Museum aims to puts a human face on immigration. It uses research and oral histories conducted by local students from diverse backgrounds and neighborhoods to highlight nine personal stories of immigrants living in Detroit today. Via mobile phones, visitors can listen in on conversations with Arab, Latino, South Asian and Eastern European immigrants, while displays of photos, personal objects and writings further illuminate their experiences. Visitors are also encouraged to contribute to the exhibition by sharing their thoughts, opinions, experiences and photographs. They can interact with others in the gallery itself at a video kiosk or from their own computers.
The Arab American National Museum is part of Immigration Sites of Conscience, a network of immigration museums that recently launched public conversations around contemporary immigration issues across the United States. Read more about the public conversations here.
On September 30, 2009 U.S. Immigration Sites of Conscience launched new programs designed to engage their millions of visitors in a nation-wide conversation about immigration – past and present. As President Obama strives to craft a new vision for immigration, communities across the country wrestle with day-to-day questions about how to live and work with each other. Museums remembering immigration histories offer a space where people can explore how previous generations have faced these questions before, come together to share their own experiences today and shape what the future can be.
The Gulag Museum’s annual “Pilorama” event, which uses art, culture and music to interpret the history of the GULAG and engage new audiences, especially youth, in dialogue on democracy in Russia today, broke previous attendance records by attracting more than 10,000 participants.
Pilorama uses the historic site of the Soviet labor camp “Perm-36” as a platform for a variety of artistic media to draw connections between the history of the camp and contemporary issues of civic responsibility. The July 2009 event featured musical, theatrical, and literary performances by national and international artists exploring contemporary issues.
International government representatives along with human rights activists took part in dialogue and panel discussions along with visitors who participated in many different ways. Post-performance discussions, conversations with witnesses of past Soviet repressions, creating installations and other art were some of the ways the audience engaged in dialogues about democracy, particularly the role of citizens in addressing State repression. The Gulag Museum at Perm-36 is dedicated to promoting democratic values and civil consciousness through the preservation of the last Soviet labor camp. With the Pilorama festival, which was widely covered by Russian media, the Museum raised awareness of contemporary challenges to democracy and increased interest in and support for civic engagement initiatives.