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Volatile U.S. Immigration Debate Examined in New Interactive Exhibition at Arab American National Museum

posted on: Sep 15, 2009

America is a nation of immigrants and their descendents – those new to our shores and those whose parents, grandparents or earlier ancestors established their new lives here decades or centuries ago. Yet the heated public debate over immigration policy often overshadows the common experiences of immigrants and the intrinsic value of diversity

The Arab American National Museum’s (AANM) new interactive multimedia exhibition Connecting Communities lets immigrants from the Arab World, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia who now live in Detroit, Dearborn and Hamtramck tell their own stories, which often contradict broadly held stereotypes and misconceptions. Photos and personal objects further illuminate the lives of these fascinating individuals, who represent a microcosm of the overall American immigrant experience.

“In contemporary public debate on immigration issues, it’s often a case of ‘us vs. them,’” says Dr. Anan Ameri, the founding director of the AANM who originated the concept for Connecting Communities.

“With the exception of Native Americans, all Americans have immigrant ancestors. We all desire a peaceful and productive life with adequate educational and employment opportunities. We all contribute to the fabric of American society. With Connecting Communities, we hope to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in a civil conversation on the benefits and challenges of immigration in the U.S.,” Ameri says.

As part of the exhibition, visitors will be asked to share their thoughts on how immigration has affected their lives by recording comments at a video kiosk inside the gallery that will instantly appear on YouTube. A free, cell-phone-based audio tour for Connecting Communities also invites visitor comments on the exhibition. Additional interaction is planned on sites including Flickr and Twitter.

Just prior to the Thursday, October 1 opening of Connecting Communities, the AANM’s Dr. Anan Ameri will take part in a national media teleconference on Wednesday, September 30 introducing the Immigration Sites of Conscience Network, a group of 13 U.S. museums, including the AANM, that all focus on immigration history and are committed to bringing together people to talk openly with each other about current immigration issues. Further information on the teleconference and this new network, being facilitated by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, is available at

Connecting Communities runs October 1, 2009 – March 28, 2010 in the Main Floor Gallery; free with Museum admission.

Opening Reception 5:30 p.m. Thursday, October 1, featuring complimentary refreshments; free and open to the public.

The Fall 2009 season of the AANM’s Global Thursdays concert & film series, also opening on Thursday, October 1, with a 6:30 p.m. performance by oud virtuoso Rahim AlHaj, is programmed to reflect themes found in Connecting Communities. For a Global Thursdays schedule, please visit

For details on additional programs related to Connecting Communities, please visit
or call 313.582.2266.