Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts from a New Educator

Recently, the Museum has welcomed several new Educators to the team. Below, Educator Ana Estrades shares her thoughts and experiences as a newcomer to the U.S. and to the Museum.

I am a new educator at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. We're a big team--there's around 40 of us. I am not the only non-native, but I'm the only one from Spain. Nothing so special about that, it just explains my origin and also that I immigrated to the States.

In the Tenement we tell the stories of the immigrant families who lived in New York at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, this diverse neighborhood is still home to many immigrants. Of course, many feel that lifestyles and welfare have changed a lot in the past century, so newcomers should find life a lot easier compared to the expreiences of immigrants in the 19th century, right?

However, we know that nowadays many immigrants struggle to find their way in the U.S. Their challenges are both similar to and different from those of the historical tenants of 97 Orchard Street. To fulfill the museum’s mission of tolerance and my own mission as an educator, I ask myself: How can we connect the stories of immigrants in the past to those of the present?

Educator Ana Estrades on Orchard Street
The Tenement Museum and the objects it contains help to explain the city and the country’s history, as well as the histories and everyday lives of ordinary people, like you and me. These stories aren't written by heroes, nor by wealthy and powerful men. They don't even share the common heritage of a single ethnic group. And yet when we learn about immigrants from different nationalities-Irish, German, Russian or Chinese- we often exclaim “I know that feeling!” Though we face obstacles and challenges in different ways, we share common fears and expectations when we face big changes, like adapting to a new city, country, work and environment.

These diverse life histories are incredibly enriching, leading me to an answer for my above question--it is through personal stories that we can build bridges to the distant past. When I face a group of visitors, I leave space for their stories too, because it is the best way I know to build those connections between what we explain in the museum and their own backgrounds and lives.

--Posted by Educator Ana Estrades


  1. congrats! nice job

  2. Congratulations on doing an excellent job! I had the opportunity to enjoy "The Moores" tour last Thursday and you are a great educator!!! Keep up the good work :)
    (and I hope you enjoy the All-of-a-Kind Family books).


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.