Tag Archives: history

You Decide: The Immigration Museum, Melbourne

Are museums our new spiritual centres? Like the cathedrals of past centuries, museums have become our architectural wonders. Tourists travel to the Louvre to venerate I.M. Pei’s pyramid as much as Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, and Bilbao has become a new pilgrimage site since Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum opened in 1997. Museums resemble places of worship […]

The Artist as Global Citizen: Cai Guo-Qiang in Brisbane

In the mid 1990s I taught English in Xiamen, a coastal city in southern China. Xiamen (also known as Amoy) has a lovely subtropical climate, and today it’s a favourite holiday spot among the Chinese. But from 1842 to the Second World War, it was a treaty port. After the First Opium War, the British […]

Engaging in Immigrant History: Exploring the Tenement Museum

A long way from the grand buildings of the “museum mile” that runs along the east side of Central Park in Manhattan, in an old apartment building in the Lower East Side, is one of my favorite museums anywhere in the world.   The Tenement Museum tells the story of the immigrant families that lived […]

A Migrant’s California Mission

Growing up Catholic, I always struggled with the idea of proselytism. Our neighbours were Jewish and Protestant, but I never worried about their souls (my parents didn’t either, thank God). Twenty years later, teaching in China, I was happy to quietly “bear witness,” to attend religious services and support the small, local community of Chinese […]

Review: Bengali Harlem by Vivek Bald

Vivek Bald’s Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America is a highly detailed and beautifully written account of the lives of South Asian immigrants who arrived in the United States between the 1890s and 1940s. In piecing together the stories of this early immigrant group, Bald draws on census records, marriage licenses, […]

A Polish Exile in London

What does the name Kosciuszko mean to you? Australians know it as their tallest mountain; New Yorkers know it as the bridge connecting Brooklyn and Queens; daytime television fans know it as the Mississippi town that gave us Oprah Winfrey. Residents of Washington DC, Chicago and Boston may have seen the name on an old […]

These are migrant streets: visiting the Museum of Immigration and Diversity in London

A line of huddled figures is slowly moving along the damp brick wall of a side street in East London. They are shivering in the cold March drizzle staring at those further ahead who pass through a worn-out laminated information sheet. One by one, they are finally let in through a door of peeling and […]

Review: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration Isabel Wilkerson, 2011, Vintage Books: New York. Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk The United States is a nation of immigrants. What is often overlooked is that it has also historically been a land of dynamic internal movement. Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic […]

Transported

Sydney in winter. The brisk, bracing chill of a clear blue morning in early July (yes, northern hemisphere reader, July), which will quickly warm up to a comfy twenty degrees centigrade[1] before midday. Even so, Sydneysiders will stay bundled in their sweaters and scarves, thinking this is what winter feels like. To me it feels […]

Still Waiting

James Tissot’s Waiting for the Train (Willesden Junction) is one of the small treasures of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in New Zealand. It’s a panel painting depicting a young woman at a London station about to depart for a long stay somewhere. Most viewers are immediately struck by her gaze: not haughty exactly, but […]