• More Information on Newcomers Exhibit

Here is some additional information about the new exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum that will be the subject of our next Lunch-and-Learn on Friday, January 11. 

The exhibit, Newcomers: The People of This Place, which opens on January 19, is a 4,000 sq. ft. exhibition that explores, celebrates, and questions the multifaceted past and present of ethnicity and immigration in West Michigan. It will include more than 600 artifacts and images drawn from the Museum’s and other community collections.  A companion exhibit to Anishinabek: The People of This Place which examines the cultural identities of Native Americans in our region, Newcomers looks at the cumulative effect on the community created by the migration and immigration of people from multiple backgrounds over time, from the founding of Grand Rapids to the present.  Newcomers builds upon the Museum’s ties to ethnic communities in a way that is relevant to today’s society. 

Newcomers has been developed with the support and encouragement of the National Endowment for the Humanities in hopes that it can serve as a national model for exhibitions dealing with issues of cultural identity and ethnic diversity in urban communities.  Themes for Newcomers were developed by a team of museum staff, nationally recognized scholars and designers, and local community stakeholders. The list of scholars includes the president of the Immigration Society, the curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, and the editor of the 50-volume Ethnic Michigan series.   Newcomers Advisory Committees included representatives from ethnic heritage societies, local and state diversity curriculum planners, and social agencies devoted to healing racism.   

The Newcomers exhibit presents the stories of individuals and families from many backgrounds according to a series of themes that most have shared on their journey from aliens to Americans. These include Leaving the Homeland, Coming to Grand Rapids, Settling In, Making a Living, Building a Family, Creating Community, Realizing Identity, and finally Creating A New Place.   The exhibit will provide interactive experiences for families and school groups, and corresponding classroom materials will be a part of diversity curriculums used in numerous districts throughout West Michigan.

The exhibition will also be used for corporate diversity training, and serve as a safe meeting place for important community discussions about race, ethnic identity and life in a multi-cultural society.  The Museum has asked Warner Norcross & Judd to work with it in developing the corporate diversity training program.

Admission to the Newcomers exhibit is free during the Museum’s Ethnic Heritage Festival on Saturday, January 19.