Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beyond Nostalgia: "Tour and Discussion" Programs Spark Public Dialogues

"Waves of anti-immigrant hostility have made many in this country forget who and what we are."
 --"The Nation's Cruelest Immigration Law”, The New York Times, Aug 28, 2011

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"
George Santayana

Immigration continues to be a highly contentious topic in this election year. Here at the Tenement Museum, our "Hard Times Tour and Discussion" program offers a place of reflection and collaborative learning about both historic and contemporary immigration issues.

During this program, participants from all over the world come together, hear the stories of immigrant families of the past, exchange their own personal stories, offer fresh perspectives, renew ideas and help make informed decisions. Opinions on these topics inevitably vary, and we’re careful to create a dialogue, not a debate in which one side tries to persuade the other. Our hope is that visitors experience this as democracy in action.

Whichever tour they choose, we want visitors to experience more than just nostalgia ("oh, those were the good old days...), or a sense of gratitude ("wow, I'm glad that I have a bathroom in my apartment"). In sharing the stories of immigrants' interior lives, we sometimes ask participants to seek common ground by recalling or discovering "the deep complexities of our relationship to the realities of immigration,” in the words of scholar Yolanda Chávez Leyva.

Great conversations start at 97 Orchard Street

Each of our post-tour dialogues contain the potential to inspire social responsibility. We hope that participants return to their communities after these conversations to plant the "seeds" of curiosity and engagement. By sharing their thoughts and experiences, participants can inspire others, in turn, to vote, volunteer, or simply to give more thought to the lives and experiences of immigrants.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas recently encouraged us to "… keep talking...Addressing our country's direction depends on a civilized and informed dialogue." The Tenement Museum’s post-tour discussions are the perfect place to engage in this dialogue by sharing your own unique thoughts and experiences. We hope you’ll join us soon!

"...overall we are each human, and THAT is what we must not forget." --A "Hard Times Tour and Discussion" participant

--Posted by Education Associate Lokki Chan

"Hard Times Tour and Discussion" is offered daily at 2:00 PM; we offered this, as well as other tour and discussion programs, to private groups as well. For more information, please contact Lokki Chan, Education Associate, 212-431-0233 ext. 221, or

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